With the new season almost fully underway by the time Tottenham Hotspur kick-off at St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United, on Sunday, the lack of new additions means that the squad will be almost identical to the one that finished last season, just without the notable loss of Kyle Walker.
It would be a surprise if Mauricio Pochettino was to deviate from the 3-4-2-1 that proved so effective last season, but Newcastle’s players and fans will be fully behind the team on the opening day and Spurs will have to deal with this, so Pochettino may go with a more defensive 4-2-3-1 to start the game for the opening minutes.
Of course, the players in the Spurs team have the flexibility to change between the two formations depending on how the game is going, without requiring a change in personnel.
Therefore, the expected line up is as follows…
GK: Hugo Lloris
Tottenham’s first choice for a number of years now and, while Michel Vorm is one of the best reserve goalkeepers in the league, he isn’t close to the Frenchman. One of the best in the world in his position, and captain of both club and national side, Lloris is guaranteed to start every league game he is fit for.
CB: Toby Alderweireld
The best defender in the league for the last two seasons, Alderweireld is an absolute rock at the back and has formed a formidable defensive partnership with fellow countryman Jan Vertonghen.
With Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle out, Alderweireld will have to deal with Aleksandr Mitrovic – who excelled against Spurs at White Hart Lane two seasons ago – but the Belgian has dealt effectively with more gifted opponents in the past.
CB: Jan Vertonghen
Another key player, and a stalwart of the club, Vertonghen has developed into a fine defender in his own right, but one of the league’s best alongside Alderweireld, who graduated alongside him from the Ajax academy. While Spurs have the promising American Cameron Carter-Vickers coming through, Vertonghen is clearly his senior and will be looking to start the season with a clean sheet.
CB: Eric Dier
The Englishman has attracted attention from Manchester United, as reported by The Guardian, such is his flexibility and ability. Expected to start at centre-back, though he may partner Mousa Dembele in the middle of the park should Spurs start in a 4-2-3-1. His range of passing could prove to be a key offensive skill.
LWB: Ben Davies
With Danny Rose injured, and no clear youth replacement, Davies will be first choice in the foreseeable future. Defensively secure, though lacking pace and attacking nous, Davies is an apt squad player but may struggle against the lightening quick Christian Atsu.
RWB: Moussa Sissoko
Unbelievably, Sissoko looked like a real footballer in preseason, and featured to decent effect in the right wing-back role.
With the sale of Walker, the injury to Kieran Trippier and Pochettino announcing publicly last week that Kyle Walker-Peters isn’t ready to start a Premier League game, one of Spurs’ most expensive players now sees himself as a third-choice right-back now – and against his former club, no less.
Pochettino has said in his press conference that Walker-Peters may feature, but Sissoko’s experience means throwing in a youngster in such a hostile atmosphere is unlikely.
CM: Mousa Dembele
How many seasons left there are of Dembele at his peak is unknown, but the Belgian has been one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the league since Pochettino’s arrival, and long may it continue. Physically monstrous, and with remarkable ball-retention capabilities, Dembele plays a pivotal role for Spurs when fit.
CM: Victor Wanyama
Passed fit on Friday, the Kenyan will play as Spurs’ midfield destroyer, and will look to break up play as often as possible, stopping Newcastle from gaining any kind of momentum. Bought on the cheap for just £11 million, he proved to be a fantastic buy from Southampton, and may be one of a handful of players stronger and more aggressive than Newcastle’s Mitrovic.
CAM: Christian Eriksen
Spurs’ dominant playmaker, there is no leaving the Dane out of the side. It is no surprise that he is attracting interest from Barcelona – a player of his calibre always will – but against Newcastle, he will look to find space against Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden, who played together for Newcastle in preseason.
SS: Dele Alli
Occupier of an indeterminable position, Alli had a superlative season last year, and has a very effective partnership with Harry Kane. If he is on form, Newcastle will struggle to keep him quiet, and with a World Cup next summer, expect even more panache in the young Englishman’s game.
ST: Harry Kane
Who else? England’s best forward, and Spurs through and through, Kane will go in search of a third consecutive Golden Boot, and will want to put aside doubts over his early season form by hitting the ground running against a newly promoted side. He looked sharp in preseason, and Newcastle won’t have played against a player of his quality last campaign.
If he starts this season the way he finished the last, Newcastle will be in real trouble.