Tottenham will look for a strong end to a busy week with a home match against Cardiff City.
Spurs defeated Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-1 on Thursday to ensure a spot in the next round of the Europa League. However, this just complicated things on the domestic front as they look to make up the six points between them and Liverpool for fourth place.
After falling 1-0 to Norwich City in the previous English Premier League match, the squad cannot afford to drop any more points in winnable matches.
Cardiff City certainly qualifies after falling to 19th in the table. The club remains in the relegation zone thanks to a scoreless effort in its last three matches.
Still, Tottenham must remain focused in order to secure a victory and gain some much-needed points with this contest.
Who will win?
When: Sunday, March 2
Where: White Hart Lane, London, England
Time (U.S.): 11:30 a.m. ET
Time (U.K.): 4:30 p.m. GMT
Watch (U.S.): NBC Sports Network
Watch (U.K.): TalkSport Radio
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Odds (via Oddschecker): Tottenham (1-3), Cardiff (11-1), Draw (17-4)
Top Storyline: Will Fatigue Be a Problem for Tottenham?
Looking at results throughout the season, there is reason for Tottenham to be concerned heading into this match.
The club has played a total of 10 Europa League matches this season. In the following EPL match, it has three wins, five losses and a draw. The only time Spurs were able to score more than one goal in this stretch was a 2-2 match against Manchester United.
Manager Tim Sherwood admitted this to be a problem, via Kevin Palmer of ESPN FC:
I wouldn’t use it as an excuse and I never have, but you’d have to say that the record [in Premier League] isn’t fantastic, both home and away, after home games and away games in Europe. The next result has not been great, so the facts suggest that but I wouldn’t use it as an excuse myself. We still want to progress in this competition. It means a lot to us.
Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado each played in the most recent match, leaving the attack weaker due to fatigue. Sherwood must find a way to get one or both of these players some rest during the match.
Moussa Dembele and the rest of the midfield could also end up struggling to keep up with a fresher opponent.
No matter what happens, Tottenham have to figure out a way to solve this problem before a much more difficult March schedule.
Prediction: Tottenham 1, Cardiff 0
Things have clearly not gone according to plan for Cardiff City lately. There are experienced, solid defenders in Steven Caulker and Ben Turner, while players like Wilfried Zaha have shown potential in the midfield.
Unfortunately, there are simply not enough true scorers on the roster, and the play in the final third has been abysmal. Michael Morris of ESPN FC also pointed out that the mentality changed with the squad when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at manager for Malky Mackay:
I questioned Mackay's cautious approach enough times when he was in charge, but I'd take him back as manager right now if Cardiff want any chance of staying up. The team spirit, never say die attitude and professional work ethic instilled by Mackay is very sadly lacking under Solskjaer.
Solskjaer does not deserve all of the blame, but he is clearly a long way from turning things around.
While Tottenham will be limited as they look to recover from a busy week, they should have enough skill to escape with a low-scoring victory. Watch for the squad to control possession to limit opportunities on the other side and then work to get at least one score.
It will not be a thrilling battle, but the victory is all that matters for this contending club.
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