Tottenham Hotspur play their first match of pre-season on Saturday when they take on Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Most of you will not need telling of the notable change in the Tottenham touring party to the group that signed off last season. But in case you missed it, Tim Sherwood and elements of his coaching staff are gone, replaced by former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino and his own chosen team.
Speaking about Pochettino's appointment in May, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy told the official website:
In Mauricio I believe we have a Head Coach who, with his high energy, attacking football, will embrace the style of play we associate with our Club. He has a proven ability to develop each player as an individual, whilst building great team spirit and a winning mentality.
Overarching questions of Pochettino's suitability to Spurs will be answered in time. For now, the meeting with Seattle offers the first look—albeit not a major one—at his credentials as he goes about preparing his squad for the season proper.
Midway through their Major League Soccer campaign, Sigi Schmid's Sounders sit top of the Western Conference.
With all due respect to last year's pre-season opening opponents, League One club Swindon Town, a side featuring the likes of former Spur Clint Dempsey and experienced striker Obafemi Martins should provide a more exacting challenge.
Pochettino was unsurprisingly keen to point out to the club website that the "objective is to arrive at the first game of the season in the best condition." Seattle will demand a little extra intensity than Swindon did, but the process is still at an early point, "to improve (our fitness), to develop our style and start to compete in matches."
Definitely unavailable to play for Spurs are Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Nabil Bentaleb, Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele, Hugo Lloris, Paulinho and Jan Vertonghen—all still resting after their World Cup efforts.
Emmanuel Adebayor did not travel after Tottenham revealed he had been "suffering from a mild bout of malaria." The club have since announced that Vlad Chiriches (back issue) and Sandro (virus) will be absent too.
His starting line-up for the first match was a combination of experienced first-teamers (such as Steven Davis and Jay Rodriguez) and younger contenders (like Calum Chambers and Jordan Turnbull). They were replaced at half-time by a similar mix, with the older of those players—then-Saints stars Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert—starting the next game against Palamos as the others dropped to the bench.
Such a use of resources in these games is common, of course. Spurs did similarly in 2013 too.
Given the absentees from the north Londoners' squad, Pochettino will probably use a similar approach against Seattle and then Toronto FC next week.
Usually in these articles predicting the Spurs line-up for the upcoming game—for instance, here is the preview of May's season-concluding win over Aston Villa—there is a good idea of who will be playing. Honestly, though, with no precedent of Spurs under Pochettino to refer to, he could select just about anyone from the players available to him.
Goalkeeper Brad Friedel might be considered a good bet to start in his native America. Then again, he could be brought on later, with Jordan Archer starting instead.
Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul are the two most experienced centre-backs on the North American tour. But perhaps one of the versatile young defenders Zeki Fryers and Milos Veljkovic (pictured below, centre) will get a chance to impress from the off.
Harry Kane or Roberto Soldado as the sole striker, or perhaps both as part of a front three? Pochettino still then has to choose one of a varied bunch including Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Ryan Mason and Andros Townsend to join them in attack.
For now, we are in the dark as to who the new boss favours out of Spurs' more experienced names, and who he might look to try from the youth ranks.
On Saturday we will begin to find out, and we'll get our first idea of Pochettino's plans for Tottenham. From there we can at least begin to hazard a somewhat-educated guess at what he has in mind moving forward.
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