Premier League: How Tottenham Hotspur Will Line Up Against Aston Villa
If the speculation—which intensified following a Sky Sports report in early April—of recent months is to be believed, it could be manager Tim Sherwood's final game in charge. The 45-year-old is barely five months into the one-and-a-half-year deal he agreed upon taking over in December.
Sherwood is unlikely to pay much mind to that for now. His side still need at least a point to cement sixth place and Europa League qualification
A commendable achievement in its own right, it does fall short of the club's target from the beginning of the season of securing Champions League football. What this will mean for several of Tottenham's players will, obviously, gradually become apparent over the course of the next few months.
What is certain, though, is the meeting with Villa will be their last competitive opportunity alongside one another to underline their value to the north London club (or perhaps, even, potential summer suitors).
After weeks of deploying a fairly settled starting line-up, will Sherwood look to change things up after last week's 2-0 loss at West Ham United?
Goalkeeper and Defence
Hugo Lloris taking his place in goal for the final game of the season seems likely with Tottenham still having something to play for. Had European qualification already been sealed, his manager might have otherwise handed the France international a rest with the World Cup in mind.
That is unlikely to be an issue for Spurs' available defenders. Younes Kaboul is suspended, while Tim Sherwood confirmed in his pre-match press conference—via the club's official Twitter page—that Jan Vertonghen remains on the sidelines with the still unfit Kyle Walker.
Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose should continue then at right and left-back respectively.
Michael Dawson will be at centre-back. Playing alongside the captain for the first time since January could be Vlad Chiriches.
The Romanian had a tough time of it a few weeks ago in the 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion. While Zeki Fryers playing is a possibility, Chiriches may be handed a chance to make a decent finish to a first season in England that began strongly but has petered out in recent months (partly due to injury).
Sherwood's confirmation to Spurs' Twitter page of Nacer Chadli joining Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend on the sidelines means Tottenham's men operating off the flanks are just about nailed on.
Aaron Lennon has been his manager's preferred choice in right midfield of late, anyway.
The winger has had the most inconsistent season of his Spurs career so should be looking to finish strongly.
After some early, understandable issues settling into a new team and country, Christian Eriksen has been one of Spurs' most reliable performers in 2014. With his confidence growing and his performances frequently catching the eye, it is a shame his Denmark side did not qualify for this summer's World Cup.
Brazil hosting the tournament meant Paulinho and Sandro did not have to worry about that process, but only the former will be appearing at this summer's tournament on home soil.
The two might not be in Sherwood's good book right now, though. Paulinho after his moving out of the way of Stewart Downing's free-kick goal last weekend; Sandro over comments to the media, as reported by ESPN Brazil (via Charles Perrin in the Express), about his boss' future.
Sherwood may well overlook the sins of both, but Paulinho would still be the more likely of the two to play given how he has been a regular of late.
Sandro showed against West Ham how his particular brand of midfield toughness has been missing from the Spurs side of late. If his comments have pushed his boss too far, however, Nabil Bentaleb may be handed a chance to finish his breakthrough year back in the side (though Etienne Capoue is also in contention again).
Given his service since being handed his debut in December, Sherwood may be keen to reward the 19-year-old with an outing ahead of his own possible World Cup experience with Algeria.
Harry Kane was unlucky to be the one chosen to come off in last week's loss to West Ham following Kaboul's sending off.
Prior to his unfortunate own goal, the young striker had been causing the Hammers problems with his movement and persistence. The latter on show with his closing down of goalkeeper Adrian on a couple of occasions.
In hindsight, the lethargic Emmanuel Adebayor probably should have been the one to come off given he provided minimal threat up-front after.
Sherwood is unlikely to hold his timid part in the Downing free-kick against him for too long. But after a relatively quiet few displays from Adebayor (save for his showing in the win over Stoke City), he may make a change anyway, handing a chance to Roberto Soldado to try to finish a tough year on a high.
Kane and Soldado as a partnership is comparatively untested too. While Sherwood's future is uncertain, so long as there is a glimmer of hope he could still be in a job, he will still be looking at things with a mind to next season.
As he told Spurs Official too: "It’s always good to win your last game and to send the fans home with a positive result."
After a tumultuous season, all concerned at White Hart Lane could do with a reason to smile before a likely, typically eventful off-season begins.
Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. Aston Villa: Lloris; Naughton, Dawson (c), Chiriches, Rose; Lennon, Paulinho, Bentaleb, Eriksen; Kane, Soldado