White Hart Lane reacquaints itself with those familiar August feelings of anticipation and trepidation on Saturday. A week ahead of the start of the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur host Schalke in their final pre-season match.
"Pre-season is all about trying to get fit," defender Ryan Fredericks told Tottenham's official website last week.
Fitness is obviously a big factor ahead of a campaign in which the north London club will probably play well over 40 games. Still, new manager Mauricio Pochettino will have also been encouraged by the performances and (to a slightly lesser extent) the results of his team this summer.
"For me, it is about exciting football, pressing high, playing with flair—this is our philosophy that we want to get down," the Argentinian reiterated on Thursday, here via the Daily Telegraph's Ben Rumsby.
Led in particular by a motivated-looking Erik Lamela, the emphasis on closing teams down quickly has certainly been evident. Spurs have attempted to put teams under pressure, not just positionally, but by harrying oppositions players into areas they do not want to be.
Lamela has been one of the chief protagonists of an attacking style in possession which, at its most effective, has retained the same sense of urgency (the first half against Toronto and some of the goals against Celtic were particularly impressive).
Quick passing, intelligent movement and, indeed, moments of flair—altogether a promising indicator of the "exciting football" Pochettino hopes to implement.
There have been some areas that will likely have concerned the Spurs coaching staff, though.
More frequent service to the lone striker it is looking like Pochettino will deploy would not go amiss.
Suggestions of a disconnect between Spurs' attacking intent and the necessary defensive precautions behind it have been seen too (notably when defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue was not on the pitch).
The Argentinian will still be attempting to figure out his preferred back four, with different combinations doing better than others in July and August's testing stage.
Which brings us back to Schalke on Saturday.
Despite losing to West Ham United and Newcastle United recently, Schalke are—as their former midfielder Lewis Holtby describes above and on the club website—a "very good test for us before the kick-off in the Premier League."
Third in last season's Bundesliga, Jens Keller's Champions League-bound side possess considerable talent, including former Spur Kevin-Prince Boateng, Germany's Julian Draxler and Benedikt Howedes, and Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The German side are an ideal final pre-season opponent for Pochettino as he tweaks his tactics and has one final, semi-competitive look at his players ahead of the season opener with West Ham.
The head coach's work with Southampton a year ago has proved to be a decent indicator of the kind of teams he would field over the course of this summer.
The Saints side he selected against Real Sociedad heading into last season was only a couple of players different from the one that beat West Bromwich Albion the following weekend (he made 11 changes during the Sociedad game too).
Different for Pochettino this summer is the need to give some minutes to his players only just returning from the World Cup. So while the starting XI that take the field on Saturday might be close to his first choice, do not be surprised if there are changes by the time they arrive at Upton Park the next weekend.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris should be one of those back for his first pre-season run-out. If so, new signing Michel Vorm is likely to get on in the second-half.
Kyle Walker and another of this summer's purchases, Ben Davies, are good bets to play at right- and left-back respectively.
Their previous form and reputations should see them keep the spots for now, though fellow full-backs Fredericks, Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose will be close at hand to keep them on their toes.
Having recently suffered injuries, the statuses of Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson were not clear at the time of writing. Therefore at centre-back, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen playing against Schalke seems a reasonable assumption to make.
With the latter one of those back from international duty, Spurs' third summer signing, Eric Dier, will almost certainly be involved at some point.
The competition for places in central midfield makes figuring who Pochettino will start there as difficult as any position.
Paulinho might be a concession to looking at one of the returnees there from kick-off. Sandro could also be handed a start after he played 20 minutes in the Celtic win following his recovery from illness.
Both will need to relatively impress given the good form of Capoue, Holtby and Ryan Mason so far in pre-season.
Further forward, the attacking-midfield trio of Christian Eriksen, Lamela and Aaron Lennon has also shone throughout the summer.
Whether their burgeoning understanding will translate, or even be utilised into the Premier League season remains to be seen. Eriksen, plus one of these players, stand to be involved together, though, making a further look at them a strong possibility.
Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor has seen the least amount of action in pre-season after he came down with malaria.
Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado have played well, but the Togo striker at his best might be hard for Pochettino to ignore. This is Adebayor's chance to show his manager why he should be selected.
One match and one week to go. For Tottenham Hotspur, and all of us, the season is almost here.
Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. Schalke: Lloris; Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Davies; Sandro, Paulinho; Lamela, Eriksen, Lennon; Adebayor.
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