On Saturday, 18th August, Tottenham Hotspur returns to Wembley on for their second Premier League match of the season as they take on the newly promoted side Fulham. Both the London clubs have many expectations to fulfill as they head into the Game Week 2 of this edition of Premier League.
Spurs are considered one of the favorites to lift the trophy at the end of this season as a fitting culmination to all the enhancements the club has witnessed for the past couple of seasons. Ever since the end of the 2015/16 season, Spurs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Three top-four finishes in a row have managed to strengthen the hopes of the club to clinch the title for the first time since 1961. The North Londoners will play at Wembley, a place that at this time last season was considered to be “cursed” for Spurs owing to a bad record at the venue for all the matches played there during the 2016/17 season. However the fans and players are fairly confident of playing at their temporary “home”. It’s a place that Spurs now know quite well, and a destination that turned out to be not nearly as dire as some predicted before the start of last season. Spurs were 13-4-2 in the league at Wembley in 2017/18, their only losses coming to rivals Chelsea and Manchester City. While the fans may hate the atmosphere at Wembley, they should feel confident that after playing a season where they no longer have to worry about any sort of “curse.”
Mauricio Pochettino missed out on a major chunk of the pre-season training with nine players still at Russia for the World Cup Semi-Finals. Their late return did not give the gaffer enough time to train the entire team for the upcoming season. Therefore, the 2-1 win at St. James’ Park on Saturday was a great result considering that the squad had played a little amount of pre-season football. Hence, one full week of training after the weekend opener was happily welcomed with many more players settling in the training routine. Erik Lamela, Harry Winks, and Josh Onomah have all returned to full training this week after recovering from their respective injuries. However, none of them seem to be match fit, and in all probability, will fail to feature against Fulham. Victor Wanyama and Juan Foyth are still on the injury list, and Son Heung-Min has departed for Indonesia to participate in the Asian Games.
Regardless of these absentees, the players that played last weekend will surely feel more settled for this one and can bring their ‘top-game’ for the matchup. Pochettino also hinted that some players could rotate in and out in the opening few matches. With that in mind, I suspect we’ll see a lineup that features some moderate rotation compared to last week’s match.
We can expect Spurs to line up in their usual 4-2-3-1 with Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier in the central midfield with Dele Alli ahead of them in a deeper position. Alli could also be dropping back occasionally during the game to make it a 4-3-3 temporarily. Harry Kane (who is still looking for his first goal in August for any PL season) will remain the centre-forward with Lucas Moura and Christian Eriksen behind him. There is a good chance that we’ll see Kieran Trippier back in the starting lineup in place of Serge Aurier. We could also see Mousa Sissoko retain his starting position from last week but it seems more likely for him to start the match on bench and be substituted in for Dembele later in the second half as a ‘super-sub’ with his arsenal of strength and speed.
Fulham are one of the more interesting teams in the Premier League this season. After winning promotion from the Championship via a playoff victory over Aston Villa, the Cottagers went on to spend over £100 million in the transfer window this summer, an amount that is rather staggering for a newly promoted side. Slaviša Jokanović has a host of new talent to work with this season. Overall there are 12 new players at Craven Cottage
One of the most additions is probably the midfielder Jean Michael Seri who was brought in for £27 million from Nice. He was sought after by a large number of clubs, including Tottenham, which his made his move to Craven Cottage a delightful surprise for the fans. Fulham also managed to snag central defender Alfie Mawson from the relegated side Swansea. Apart from recruiting the talent, the Cottagers also managed to retain it in the form of the PFA Young Player of the Year, Ryan Sessegnon. This could be considered as a major success for the club in this transfer window (despite having no actual transaction/transfer done) with huge clubs like Tottenham looking to sign him.
Although their opening home loss to Crystal Palace last weekend made the Fulham side look a little disjointed, their conviction definitely didn’t look weak. The goal is clearly to not only avoid relegation this season, but for Fulham to position themselves for a mid-table or better finish and to use it as a launch pad to even improve things for the future seasons.
One can only see the Cottagers improve as they begin to settle back in the top division of English football after a wait of four years. Fulham played an attractive, up-tempo style of football under Jokanovic last season in the Championship and they would look to do the same this season in the Premier League.
This will make for an exciting fixture on Saturday, as the determined Fulham side will plausibly go all out against Spurs, which could actually turn out to be in favour of the home team that likes to destroy teams that take the attacking approach!