The lowdown on tomorrow's opponents from Dustin from Cartilage Free Captain
What are your expectations for this season?
A tricky question. My expectation for the season is the same as it was at the beginning of the year: fourth place. I'm not sure if we'll get there. Before the season there were many who thought we might have the quality to make a title push, or at least be in the conversation for top 2 or 3. That obviously was optimistic, especially considering all the new players we added to the squad after the sale of Gareth Bale. Taking into consideration our current form, I would be thrilled with fourth, though I think fifth is possibly more realistic.
Are you happy with the manager?
I am, for now. Tim Sherwood has proven himself to be a good choice to steady the ship after the departure of Villas-Boas. He's prevented a player exodus, has cultivated a return to positive, "Tottenham football," and we're undefeated in our last six with him at the tiller. I'm still not convinced that he's the long-term solution at White Hart Lane, but he's a steady hand at the wheel for now, and considering the other options available, I think he was the right call. I still think the rest of this season is an extended job interview for him. If he excels and gets us to the Champions League, he'll keep his job next year. If not, he'll get a nice severance package, a firm handshake, and he'll land on his feet with a great lower-Prem or Championship job. It's win-win.
Who are your key players?
Based on current form, you'd have to say Emmanuel Adebayor is our key player. The man has come back from the dead and is in scintillating form. Apart from him, Christian Eriksen has shown himself to be our main source of creativity in the midfield. Kyle Walker also has been a bright spot, giving us width and directness, and in the absence of Jan Vertonghen might just be the team's best defender this season. He's come a long way. Finally, Hugo Lloris has been a monster, a real world-class goalkeeper, and we're lucky to have him.
Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?
What business? It's been a quiet window for us. There are rumors of Etienne Capoue leaving and Fredy Guarin coming in, which doesn't make much sense to me, and it's been said that Lewis Holtby might be heading out on loan, but I wouldn't expect many fireworks from Spurs at the end of this window.
Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?
You've seen Nabil Bentaleb, one of our academy prospects, surprisingly make the first team and he's comported himself very, very well. But the star of our academy, and the one that we're all salivating to see in action, is Tom Carroll, a highly-rated deep-lying playmaker who's currently on loan at QPR. He's a real talent, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him crack the first team next season.
Your Achilles heel?
Our Achilles heel right now is defense, and it's primarily due to injury. Our top two defenders, Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul, have been out for months with injuries. They're both back in training, but it's meant that we've needed to start Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches in central defense, and while both are stalwart servants to the club, neither are particularly pacy and are both vulnerable to speedy defenders and balls over the top when we play our high defensive line. At the beginning of the season under AVB, Spurs had one of the EPL's highest rated defenses, and with good reason. If we want to make a push for the Champions League, we need our first-choice defense back and healthy.
If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?
So many to choose from! But if I had to choose, I'd pick Yaya Toure. He's an absolute beast in the middle, so strong and so, so talented. The thought of a 4-3-3 with Toure, Sandro, and Paulinho behind Eriksen, Adebayor, and Aaron Lennon makes my mouth water. But, y'know, I'll settle for Alvaro Negredo or Sergio Aguero. :-)
What is your perception of City as a club?
To your average Spurs fan (or at least over here in the States), City is a fantastic, fantastic squad of players. It's astounding how good of a squad you have put together. The downside to that is of course that it's been funded by petrodollars, much like City's stratospheric rise. Hence, it's easy for us to dismiss City as a "made" club drenched in oil money. I think that's a mistake, as there's a lot to like in the way City is run, and I think despite what they say publicly, supporters of every club would gladly take the same kind of investment that Monsour has put into City. I'm sure the long-suffering City fans are pleased with the results. But good God, I'm glad we only have to play you twice a season.
Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?
With the long layoff and a few players slated to return from injury, I expect we'll see the following lineup (4-4-1-1)
Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Rose; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado.
As for the score, my head says we'll get thrashed but my heart says we'll nick a point. I'm going with my heart. 1-1 draw, and there will be great rejoicing in Spurs-land.