We preview Saturday’s Premier League Matchday 6 as Middlesborough host Tottenham from the Riverside Stadium.
Consecutive defeats have followed a bright start back in the Premier League for Aitor Karanka’s team. They were absent from action mid-week, giving Karanka a full 7 days to prepare for this encounter. That could be a useful advantage despite Tottenham’s rotation mid-week.
League Form: D, W, D, L, L. (13th position in League)
Their Champions League slip-up appears to have been enough motivation to get Tottenham playing somewhere near their best form from the season just past. They created enough chances to put four or five past Sunderland, and bossed the League Cup clash against inferior opposition. They were barely threatened defensively in either of the last two encounters.
League Form: D, W, D, W, W. (3rd position in League)
Karanka has suggested in the build up to the match that he is still, “trying to find the best XI”. So are we, but with Christhian Stuani available after missing at Everton, he at least should return to strengthen them significantly. Emilio Nsue appears in some doubt and may not start this weekend.
Middlesborough: Valdes, Friend, Gibson, Ayala, Barragan, Stuani, Forshaw, Fischer, Downing, Ramirez, Negredo.
Erik Lamela played the full 90 mid-week, while Christian Eriksen was withdrawn after 60 minutes. This could be an indicator to Saturday. Eriksen should start and Lamela rejoin the bench to replaced by Heung-Min Son, despite the Argentinian’s goal and three assists on Wednesday.
Harry Kane of course is out indefinitely and so Vincent Janssen will fill the striker role, while Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier could both return following minor hamstring concerns. Dembele appears more likely to come off the bench in this one. Danny Rose has returned to training but could be given more time before resuming.
Tottenham: Lloris, Vertonghen, Dier, Alderweireld, Walker, Wanyama, Alli, Son, Eriksen, Sissoko, Janssen.
Borough have conceded all five of their goals in first halves back in the Premier League and will want to avoid a slow start against a hungry Tottenham following their demolition of Gillingham mid-week. Middlesborough will need to cut out the mistakes that have cost them points in their last two games, or Tottenham will make them pay dearly through a wealth of options in the final third.
Whilst the Middlesborough defence has looked shaky at times in adjusting to the step up in standard, their attack has potent options that should at least give Spurs’ defence some food for thought. Alvaro Negredo and Viktor Fischer may only have one goal between them so far, but should options present from midfield then they can capitalise. Not to mention the returning Stuani, who scored two goals Sunderland in August.
Spurs will be aiming to continue their unbeaten run and establish a spot firmly inside the top four. Their challenge will be breaking down the opposition, which they have struggled to do at times against preceivedly weaker opponents. If Middlesborough sit deep, which they may, the question will be whether Tottenham are incisive enough to break through.
It has been twelve seasons since Tottenham went the first six games of a season unbeaten and we expect them to do just that. First half goals have been few and far between for Spurs of late, and they will want an early one – if they get it, the game could then open up for them. If Middlesborough can cut out the mistakes and defend well throughout, they do also pose an attacking threat on the break. However, Spurs should have enough quality to pick up a crucial three points away from home.
Daily Football Blog Prediction: Middlesborough 0 – 2 Spurs