Tottenham Hotspur host Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday. Their third meeting of the season, the previous games went to Mauricio Pochettino's side—1-0 at White Hart in September and 3-1 at Selhurst Park last month.
Sustaining and improving their respective Premier League form may feel more pressing at this stage. But just two wins from a possible Wembley semi-final date, the London clubs will not want to waste this opportunity for a crack at silverware.
"It would be exciting to go to the next round because that would mean we go to the quarter-final, and that’s important for the club and the players," Pochettino said to Tottenham's official website.
For Crystal Palace, their FA Cup run has provided a welcome break for them. Without a league win in 2016 so far, boss Alan Pardew is eager for his team to secure a momentum-shifting result.
"We were in a good position two months ago and we’re not in a bad position now, but with the run of results we've had, it doesn’t look great."
Date: Sunday, February 21
Time: 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET
Venue: White Hart Lane, London
TV Info: No live UK broadcast, highlights from 10:30 p.m. on BBC One/Fox Sports Net (U.S. only)
Live Stream: No UK stream/Fox Soccer 2GO (U.S. only)
|Tottenham Hotspur||Crystal Palace|
|Europa League, February 18: Fiorentina (A)—Draw: 1-1||Premier League, February 13: Watford (H)—Loss: 1-2|
|Premier League, February 14: Manchester City (A)—Win: 1-2||Premier League, February 6: Swansea City (A)—Draw: 1-1|
|Premier League, February 6: Watford (H)—Win: 1-0||Premier League, February 2: Bournemouth (H)—Loss: 1-2|
|Premier League, February 2: Norwich City (A)—Win: 0-3||FA Cup Fourth Round, January 30: Stoke City (H)—Win: 1-0|
|FA Cup Fourth Round, January 30: Colchester United (A)—Win: 1-4||Premier League, January 23: Tottenham Hotspur (H)—Loss: 1-3|
Both clubs' official websites
Tom Carroll misses out for Tottenham after suffering an Achilles injury during their 1-1 Europa League draw with Fiorentina on Thursday. Pochettino told his club's official website he is confident "it’s only seven to 10 days, and he will be available again."
Hugo Lloris is still recovering from a shoulder injury, while longer-term knee injuries keep Clinton Njie and Jan Vertonghen out.
Crystal Palace could welcome back Yannick Bolasie after the winger returned to full training following a hip injury. Dwight Gayle and Joe Ledley are also in contention.
Pape Souare is suspended after his sending off in the loss to Watford. James McArthur and Jason Puncheon are both injured.
Pochettino made six changes between Tottenham's win over Manchester City last weekend and the trip to Italy. Expect a few of those to be reversed.
Michel Vorm is one who will play two matches in a row. Lloris is injured, but the Dutchman may have carried on his FA Cup deputising anyway.
The back four that ultimately kept City out could be selected again—Danny Rose and Kyle Walker back after being rested on Thursday and either side of de-facto centre-back duo Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer.
In front of them in central midfield, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier may well return too after both were substitutes midweek (though, do not rule out Dier being used in central defence if Pochettino wants to hand Alderweireld or Wimmer a break).
Spurs have room to manoeuvre in attacking midfield.
Erik Lamela may get the reward for his Man City cameo illness denied him on Thursday. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are listed in the above team selection but one or both could be kept out with an eye on the return game with Fiorentina. In which case Nacer Chadli and Heung-Min Son lead the alternate options.
Up top, Harry Kane will almost certainly be back in the starting XI after a bench role in Europe.
Going by his selections for Crystal Palace's preceding FA Cup wins over Southampton and Stoke City, Pardew may opt for consistency in his lineup on Sunday.
That should mean Wayne Hennessey in goal with the only change to the defence being Martin Kelly coming in at left-back for the suspended Souare.
Bolasie and Ledley will make their way back into the team at some point. If this weekend proves too soon for starting roles at least, the Eagles midfield and attack could closely resemble that which started last week.
Linchpin Yohan Cabaye starting is a must as they look to generate some positive momentum. Mile Jedinak had a particularly bad day against Watford (notably conceding a penalty), but will give the team some midfield bite.
Wilfried Zaha is another all-but-guaranteed starter. He did well against Spurs on the right last time, but his second-half stint on the opposite flank against the Hornets gives Pardew something to think about. If the manager favours the former approach, Jordan Mutch may be back in left midfield.
Up top, expect to see a pairing of Connor Wickham and the returning Emmanuel Adebayor. More on that later.
Tottenham Hotspur Player to Watch: Michel Vorm
There was little Vorm could do about Fiorentina’s Federico Bernardeschi's deflected long-range effort. The shot’s contact with Ryan Mason altered its trajectory, and the goalkeeper was left to scramble helplessly.
The Serie A outfit may have ended up denying Vorm only his second clean sheet in his six appearances this season anyway. But it will have been frustrating all the same. Up to and after that point, he dealt well with every attempt to beat him.
It was essentially a bonus start for Vorm. When Lloris has been available, the Frenchman has played every game outside of the FA Cup.
The 32-year-old’s main priority will be helping his team progress in the competition. If that gets him another game in the process, so be it. Because if Spurs do not advance, it is possible he will not play again this season.
Crystal Palace Player to Watch: Emmanuel Adebayor
It has been hard to take your eyes off Adebayor since he signed for Crystal Palace.
At Swansea City he gave away the free-kick that led to former Tottenham team-mate Gylfi Sigurdsson opening the scoring. A week later he scored his first goal for his new club—an excellent looping header to level against Watford.
Ahead of the striker’s return to north London following a convoluted exit, it has been no surprise to see him dominate pre-match discussion. Be it his reflections of life at Spurs—still likes Pochettino, not so keen on chairman Daniel Levy—per the Guardian's David Hytner. Or Pardew talking up his potential contribution back at the Lane.
"He is highly motivated for this game, and he is highly motivated to do well for Palace," the Eagles boss said, per their official website.
Tottenham saw Adebayor's best and worst in his four years with them. They will hope the player they were more latterly familiar with is the one who shows up on Sunday.
Key Battle: Owning the Wide Areas
All of Tottenham’s goals in their 3-1 win over Crystal Palace last month originated from wide areas.
For the first Rose found Chadli in the left-hand side of the box, and the Belgian was allowed enough time to chip in a centre for Kane. The striker later had ample space to send in his own cross that Eriksen teed up for Alli to score a superb lead-taking volley. Chadli’s win-sealing stoppage-time goal came from a powerful, unchecked run from the left.
Going by Palace performances since then, they have not learned their lessons.
Swansea repeatedly targeted them from here and might have earned a game-changing penalty when Zaha tangled with Andre Ayew. A week later, Watford’s opening goal had its roots in a corner won when right-back Joel Ward failed to deal with a Nathan Ake run. Their second came from a too easily allowed Ben Watson cross that saw Ward sucked inside, leaving Troy Deeney free at the back post to convert.
Tottenham will fancy their chances of hurting their opponents again here. They cannot afford to overlook the Eagles getting at them, though.
The quick and tricky Zaha caused plenty of problems for Spurs in the aforementioned meeting. The aerial bombardment Palace gave them in the second-half—albeit mostly originating from set pieces—should also serve as warning to be careful not to allow their visitors any crossing rhythm.
Odds (via Odds Shark)
Tottenham win: 100-163
Crystal Palace win: 9-2