Saints V Tottenham Hotspur The Preview
Saturday, 25th Jan 2020 08:56
It's FA Cup day and Tottenham Hotspur arrive at St Mary's with the Special One perhaps taking this game more seriously than he might usually given that unless they win the FA Cup Spurs might not qualify for Europe next season.
The FA Cup has been a tournament that has seen both Premier League and even Championship sides play weakened sides as they look to concentrate on their respective Leagues, but this is a game where both managers seem to be taking it a little more seriously.
Indeed Ralph Hasenhuttl rested Danny Ings at Crystal Palace presumably to keep him fresh for this afternoon's fixture.
Both managers have a similar reason for putting out strong teams in that it is their perhaps only realistic option of getting into Europe for next season.
Saints have had a resurgence whilst Jose Mourinho has not had the instant success that Spurs fans had hoped for and although they are currently 6th, 8 sides including Saints are within 4 points of them and they could easily slip out of the top 7 if they do not pick up.
Therefore the Special One is taking this seriously and will be looking to restore his reputation in England by winning a trophy, for Spurs to not qualify for the Champions League would be a big blow, to not even make the Europe League would be a disaster and even the latter is looking dodgy with the former looking a very big ask to qualify.
For Saints though there is an injury crisis going into the game in the back four, with Cedric likely to be out for several weeks and Yan Valery said to be still a way off being fit, who plays right back is a big question, do they drop James Ward Prowse back there as they did at Palace when Cedric went off or do they reshuffle.
There is also a big question in the centre of defence with Jan Bednarek and Jannik Vestergaard both carrying injuries.
Hasenhuttl has options and the most likely could be that he plays Jack Stephens and Yoshida in the middle with Ryan Bertrand moving to Right back and then either Jake Vokins or even Pierre Emile Hojbjerg slotting in at left back.
In goal we could also see another game for Angus Gunn and Oriol Romeu in midfield, but aside from this I think Ralph will put out as strong a side as he can manage.
He has talked about how he sees the cup games as important and he knows that a good run in this competition is good for morale in both the dressing room and the stands and it is his best chance of qualifying for Europe, something that looked impossible in the League a few weeks ago, but now is a realistic chance, but in truth an outside bet.
Saints fans are again getting behind the team and there is likely to be a 30k plus crowd in the stadium this afternoon boosted by 5,000 Spurs fans that will contribute to a good atmosphere and a return to those good old days when the cup used to see big away followings and a lot more passion than in the League.
If Saints can win this then the competition could open out and by the time the 5th round arrives in March we will hopefully be safe in the Premier League and could give the competition our full attention.
It would have been tough for Saints in normal circumstances to beat Spurs, even though the London team are in turmoil they are still 6th in the Premier League, but with a mini injury crisis it will be even harder, but hopefully our team spirit and character will pull us through.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #22 by wessex_exile
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