Sunday’s Premier League action gets underway at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa meet in a top-four six-pointer.
Although the visitors begin this round on the peripheries of the Champions League qualification zone, only one point separates them from fourth-placed Spurs.
November’s international break came to the London outfit’s rescue after piling injury and suspension problems halted Ange Postecoglou’s near-perfect start to life in the Premier League.
Following a ten-match unbeaten league start (W8, D2), the Australian manager has overseen back-to-back losses to Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Despite going 1-0 up, courtesy of Brennan Johnson’s first league goal for the club, Wolves’ stoppage-time brace condemned Tottenham to a morale-damaging 2-1 defeat at Molineux.
Villa headed into the international break on a high after recovering from a dismal 2-0 loss at Nottingham Forest with a history-equalling 3-1 home triumph over Fulham.
In addition to making it 13 consecutive wins at Villa Park for the first time since the club’s record run in 1983, the Villains have opened a new league campaign with six home triumphs for the first time since 1959.
However, Unai Emery’s side tend to undo their sterling job at Villa Park on their travels, going winless in four of their opening six away matches in the Premier League this term (W2, D1, L3).
It would be a shame to see Postecoglou’s tremendous early effort go in vain, yet unless he stems the bleeding against Villa, Tottenham will finish this round outside the top four.
Villa’s upcoming visit to north London marks the beginning of an ominously-looking four-game stretch, with Spurs facing Manchester City, West Ham United and Newcastle United next.
A severe injury crisis means the Lilywhites are not well-equipped for the challenging tasks ahead. Avenging last season’s league defeats against the Lions could heighten their spirits, but it could be tricky.
Scoring first may help, but not necessarily. Tottenham opened the scoring against both Chelsea and Wolves, only to end up losing both fixtures.
They’re now at risk of becoming the fourth side in Premier League history to lose three consecutive league games after breaking the deadlock.
Doing the top-flight double over Tottenham in 2022/23 saw Villa equal the number of wins they had against Spurs across their previous 21 league encounters (W2, D3, L16).
You’d need to go back to 1996 for the last time the Birmingham side won more consecutive games against the Londoners. Considering their travel sickness, they seem destined to dwell on the past.
Barring a 1-0 win at Chelsea in late September, Emery’s side have failed to win three of their last four away league outings (D1, L3), netting just a single goal in that sequence.
If they can make that run irrelevant in London, maybe we could start considering Villa as potential title contenders. Let’s keep in mind that they sit only four points adrift of pacesetters Man City.
Tottenham cannot call upon the services of injured James Maddison, Richarlison, Micky van de Ven, Ivan Perisic, Ryan Sessegnon and Manor Solomon for this showdown.
Cristian Romero and Yves Bissouma are out suspended, but Son Heung-min is fit after a minor injury scare while on international duty with South Korea.
Villa are without long-term absentees Tyrone Mings, Emiliano Buendia and Jacob Ramsey, while Diego Carlos will likely sit this trip out to accelerate his recovery.
Tottenham Hotspur potential starting line-up:
(5-2-3): Guglielmo Vicario; Pedro Porro, Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Emerson Royal; Pape Matar Sarr, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso; Dejan Kulusevski, Son Heung-min, Brennan Johnson.
Aston Villa potential starting line-up:
(4-4-2): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Pau Torres, Lucas Digne; John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Boubacar Kamara, Nicolo Zaniolo; Moussa Diaby, Ollie Watkins.
We Say: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Aston Villa
Regardless of Tottenham’s alarming injury crisis and Villa’s tendency to underperform on the road, this contest has a high-scoring thriller written all over it.
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