Tottenham head to Anfield for a Round of 16 League Cup clash with Liverpool on Tuesday night. Given the build up of fixtures in recent weeks and Mauricio Pochettino’s stated desire to rotate, the brightest youngsters in Spurs’ squad appear set to be given a fantastic opportunity to shine.
Spurs made the League Cup final two seasons ago, and it always looks like a winnable trophy for teams in and around the top 6. Yet this season Spurs seemingly have bigger fish to fry as they chase Premier League success and a decent run in the Champions League. So the League Cup is an opportunity to play and develop youngsters rather than chase success. Whilst winning is of course still the aim, the schedule dictates that it is simply a bonus in this competition.
With much of the first team set for a well earned rest on Tuesday night, attention turns to those academy graduates, youngsters and back-up players who will be given a chance so rarely afforded thus far this term. It is their opportunity to present a strong case for inclusion in Premier League and Champions League action to come. Or at the very least, maintain their status as a future prospect and in training with the first team.
Here are our predictions for the team that Tottenham will put on the park come Tuesday night:
Michel Vorm filled in admirably for Hugo Lloris during two and a half Premier League games at the start of the season, and will no doubt give the club Captain a rest against Liverpool. Surely one of the best back-up goalkeepers plying their trade in England, it is not hard to picture the Dutchman as a likely first choice at several other clubs in the top division. Pau Lopez, the Espanyol loanee, could register his first subs bench appearance.
In the heart of defence, Kevin Wimmer and Cameron Carter-Vickers will continue their budding partnership as second-choice centre halves. Much has been made of Wimmer’s recent absence from the line-up, yet he made the bench in Bournemouth and will surely start here. Carter-Vickers was excellent in his previous League Cup game; the experience the 18-year-old gains here will be nothing short of invaluable. It will also go a long way to determining just how close he is to starting in the league, should the first choice Belgian pairing be unavailable.
The fullback situation is a little less clear, however it appears Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier will be given game time. The alternatives, Kyle Walker-Peters and Anton Walkes, do not seem to be in Pochettino’s immediate plans. Walkes did enter the fray late against Gillingham, but the chance to rest Danny Rose and Kyle Walker should be sufficient to give Davies and Trippier the nod.
Tom Carroll and Harry Winks have seen little action in recent weeks, but should each return in the middle. At 24, Carroll has been unable to find an opening at Tottenham this season with the added midfield depth, despite injury and suspension to Moussa Dembele. His junior by four years, Winks plays a similar role and has an opportunity to push ahead of Carroll in what looks like a head to head battle for the reserve central midfield position. They are each a fair way back in the queue, yet one or two injuries could change things dramatically.
Further forward, and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou will no doubt appear on the left of attacking midfield, with academy graduate Josh Onomah on the right. Both players have shown they deserve more time in limited displays thus far. N’Koudou’s electric pace is a clear and exciting point of difference, and Onomah’s clever and tricky ball movement will be on show once again. Each regulars on the bench, they must be close to usurping the likes of Mousa Sissoko from the first team. Especially if the latter is suspended following his errant elbow at Bournemouth.
A start for 17-year-old prodigy Marcus Edwards in the central attacking midfield role would be a boost for club and supporters alike. Given the significant workload of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Heung-Min Son in recent weeks, it seems the perfect opportunity for this to occur. One of the aforementioned three can provide an alternative should Edwards struggle or be unable to get through the 90 minutes. One or both of the others could even be left out of the matchday squad.
Had Vincent Janssen been banging goals in for fun, he too would likely be rested for this match. But with Harry Kane’s return imminent and the Dutch striker still in need of confidence boosting, Janssen will almost certainly start up front. What will be interesting is whether young striker Shayon Harrison is named on the subs bench. Harrison missed the Gillingham fixture due to injury, and an appearance in the second half would assist his development greatly.
Spurs are going to be up against it as Liverpool will likely field a vastly more experienced line up. Without European competition to drain their resources, the Reds require less rotation from the weekend defeat of West Brom. They will surely start strong favourites and must believe they can go all the way in the League Cup. This young Tottenham team, however, have a great opportunity to prove their wares. And even if they lose, one or two Spurs youngsters making an impact and a statement would be of huge benefit in a season where depth is being well and truly tested.