League Two side Wycombe Wanderers will be looking to cause an FA Cup shock when they take the short trip across London to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham in Saturday’s fourth-round clash.
Tottenham last won the FA Cup in 1991 and will be hoping that their improving form in the Premier League can replicate itself in England’s most famous cup competition.
Wycombe will be hoping for something similar as they dare to dream of emulating their FA Cup run back in 2001 when they reached the semi-finals, eventually losing out to winners Liverpool.
Tottenham’s winning run came to an end at the weekend at the Etihad after coming from two goals down to rescue a controversial point, but Pochettino’s side are still unbeaten in eight matches and will look to continue this on Saturday.
After dominating their previous league match against West Brom, Pochettino’s side showed grit and determination to fight back from a two-goal deficit against City and were clinical with their chances.
Tottenham’s opponents are also in the middle of an incredible unbeaten run of their own, going 16-matches without defeat in all competitions since their last loss back in early November.
This run has seen them firmly in the race for promotion from League Two as the season enters the critical months as well as starting a cup-run, and Wycombe earnt themselves a date with Spurs after seeing off Portsmouth, Chesterfield and non-league Stourbridge in the previous rounds.
With a vital Premier League match coming up three days after their fourth-round clash, Mauricio Pochettino looks set to keep faith in the side that beat Aston Villa in round three and rest the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen.
Michel Vorm, Kieran Trippier and Vincent Janssen are all set to come into the side – with the Dutch striker, in particular, hoping that he can finally impress Pochettino and stamp his mark at White Hart Lane.
During his press conference on Thursday afternoon, Pochettino confirmed that Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose won’t feature with respective knee injuries, so Eric Dier will drop back into the centre of defence.
Wycombe are likely to name an unchanged side from the 1-1 draw with Luton in League Two last Saturday, although Sam Saunders could come in on the wing after arriving from Brentford.
Gareth Ainsworth’s side will line-up with Akinfenwa and Paul Hayes leading the side, two players who have a combined total of 258 Football League goals over their elusive playing careers.
Wycombe will arrive at White Hart Lane set to leave nothing behind on the pitch, and with Adebayo Akinfenwa in fine form after five goals in ten matches, they will be confident of a classic upset.
Despite Tottenham’s focus being primarily on the Premier League, they won’t want to exit the FA Cup early in the competition so will look to break down a stubborn Wycombe test; and with the quality they possess off the bench, it’s hard to see any other result than a home win at full-time.
Much like their third-round win over Aston Villa, it may take a while to break down the resistance of Wycombe – who will pose a potent threat from set pieces – but the Premier League experience should shine through and earn the hosts a spot in the fifth-round draw on Monday evening.
Predicted Score: Tottenham 2-1 Wycombe
Three musts for Tottenham to achieve victory in their FA Cup semi-final
FA Cup success will be key to Tottenham’s season.
Here are three things Spurs must do to secure their place in the May 19 final.
Get Eriksen involved
Christian Eriksen has perhaps been Spurs’ standout player this season, delivering consistently superb performances and chipping in with crucial goals.
In order for Spurs to gain the upper hand against the Red Devils, the Danish midfielder must control the game and be at the heart of every Spurs attack.
If Eriksen is at his unplayable best, he can combine effortlessly with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and break down the United backline with ease.
Keep Lukaku quiet
Romelu Lukaku presents United’s most potent goalscoring threat, and with 27 goals to his name this season, is enjoying a career-best year.
The Belgian’s red-hot form will give Tottenham’s centre-backs cause for concern, but his Belgian international teammates will have to be more than up to the fight to nullify Lukaku.
Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will know Lukaku’s strengths all too well and must be strong and resolute to deny the striker any whiff of goal.
Stop the feared United comeback
If Spurs end up taking the lead at Wembley, they must be vigilant of letting Manchester United back into the match.
The Red Devils have shown an incredible knack for getting back into matches; their 3-2 come-from-behind win at the Etihad is a prime example of that. United have also recently beat Crystal Palace after trailing 2-0, and clearly never consider themselves out of a match.
Tottenham must be mindful to not let their concentration slip when ahead, as Manchester United will surely make them pay.
How Wigan Athletic have helped to rekindle the magic of the FA Cup
Wigan Athletic’s dramatic FA Cup fifth round victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City has helped to rekindle the magic of the competition, writes Rob Meech.
FA Cup shocks don’t come much bigger than Wigan Athletic’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City.
The League One club produced a sensational performance to knock out the Premier League champions-elect, whose hopes of winning an unprecedented Quadruple were left in tatters.
Will Grigg was the unexpected hero for the hosts, as his 79th-minute strike sent the 2013 winners into the quarter-finals and the club’s supporters into dreamland.
Wigan’s adventure has been beset with obstacles.
But, one by one, these have been overcome and a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final is now a realistic proposition.
Now, it is struggling Southampton that stand between Paul Cook’s men and the last four.
Arguably, City are the form team in Europe and one of the favourites to lift the Champions League.
But when it comes to the FA Cup, the form-book goes out of the window.
Despite being the runaway Premier League leaders, City succumbed to only their third defeat in all competitions this season.
Although the inevitable DW Stadium pitch invasion that greeted the final whistle sparked some unsavoury scenes, the result will be remembered as one of the greatest ever upsets.
There has been much talk about how the FA Cup has become devalued in recent years.
On top of an evening kick-off for the final, many clubs – not exclusive to the Premier League – field weakened teams and view the competition as an unwelcome distraction.
This has led to some pundits calling for it to be refreshed. Potential ideas include the scrapping of replays.
However, a by-product of big clubs treating the competition with disrespect is that the number of upsets has increased.
It’s not just Wigan who have sprung a surprise or two this season.
League One’s Rochdale have done likewise in the fifth round, thanks to a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser at Spotland.
Despite what television companies might think, there is little appetite for watching two Premier League teams playing each other in the FA Cup.
Football enthusiasts want a chance to see the underdog have its day.
Wigan’s story has captured the imagination of supporters of all clubs, up and down the land.
Their stunning victory over a City side that, although not at full strength was nonetheless full of internationals, reinforced the legend of the FA Cup.
The romanticism of the competition has been rekindled this season, something for which Wigan deserve enormous credit.
Another factor is at play, though.
It may sound like a paradox, but if the FA Cup is to remain relevant then it needs the elite clubs to continue to treat it as an afterthought.
That way, shocks like Wigan’s will be repeated in seasons to come and interest in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition will remain high.
Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs
Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.
Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.
Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:
Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him
It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.
The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.
He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.
His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.
Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight
They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.
Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.
He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.
It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.
Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best
The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.
Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.
The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.
For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.