Off the back of a statement win in the North London Derby and a commanding win against Royal Antwerp that saw them take the group, Tottenham face a London Derby against a formidable Crystal Palace side on Sunday, December 13th at Selhurt Park.
Anyone associated with the North London outfit would be right to have some concern here, Palace play a rather effective low-block system that looks to counter, and historically, especially over the last decade, Spurs have struggled to break it down. Tottenham have often relied on late match heroics, most recently from names like Christian Eriksen, to take results from their counterparts on the south end of England\’s capital city.
However, I\’m inclined to argue that this match might be less reflective of those past. Spurs are also now playing an effective low-block system that looks to counter, and it would be far from a stretch to say that Tottenham will field a much more talented side, assuming names like Kane, Son, and Hojbjerg get the nod. We now know that Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho won\’t look to make changes to his approach – \”stay the course,\” has clearly been the message, and I do believe that Mourinho will look to force Palace to bend to his will.
So what does that look like?
Palace do like to play down the right hand side, relying on the individual brilliance of Wilfred Zaha, as Spurs do with Son and Kane as they look to break quickly. This means that (assumedly) Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko will be tasked with keeping him quiet. Serge Aurier has often been involved in the attack, and if we look to render Zaha moot, I\’d argue that he will have to play a bit more conservatively.
What this does do, however, is free up (again, assumedly) Sergio Reguilon and Son Heung-Min to wreak havoc down the left hand side. Often this season, we have seen Son drift, almost putting himself in positions where he doesn\’t appear to be threatening, but due to his acumen and ability, absolutely is. Spurs will recover the ball, Kane will drop deep, taking at least one center-half with him, and Son will grab the space before anyone else is able to. We see it week-after-week and I expect nothing different.
Steven Bergwijn is the likely candidate to be opposite Son, he was fantastic against Arsenal in a very similar role, one in which he was asked to hold more defensive responsibilities than offensive. This would of course add to the cohesive effort to keep Zaha quiet, and would be a savvy move by Mourinho. (One can only expect that he is miles ahead of me here, for the record).
All-in-all, Spurs will need to rely on Aurier, Sissoko, Kane, and Son in order to see off Palace. Hojbjerg will also be a notable mention, but at this point, that seems to be a bit too obvious to dissect, as he has been (along with Eric Dier) a foundational piece of what Spurs are doing defensively. Aurier and Sissoko will need to remain quite disciplined, something in which they have done very well this year – and as always, Spurs will need to pick their moments carefully, allowing Son and Kane to remain the most clinical pairing in Europe.
2-0 Spurs for me. COYS.