A little bit of history will take place in North London this evening as the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosts its first competitive game, with Crystal Palace the visitors for a London derby that the home side really need to win. After a few delays – they were initially hoping to have moved into their new home in advance of this season – Tottenham are finally unveiling their new ground to the public for the first time in a game that means something. In this case, it means a chance to shake off some worryingly indifferent domestic form.
Spurs have been finding wins to be elusive in recent weeks – indeed, their last victory in the Premier League came nearly two months ago, with a 3-1 win over Leicester. Tonight, there may also be a certain amount of trepidation because, while this is a home game for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, they have in truth played exactly as many matches here as Crystal Palace. Will the hosts rise to the occasion, or will their recent Premier League run continue under the lights of the new ground?
Spurs should rise to the occasion
The early days of Spurs’ tenancy at Wembley led to all sorts of questions regarding the impact that the move was having on the players and fans. Much as with tonight’s game, the early outings at the national stadium were learning experiences for many of the Tottenham players, as much as they were for the visitors. Eventually, Pochettino’s side became comfortable with Wembley as a home ground, but it took them until their fourth home game to notch up a Premier League win there. They will hope that – in a stadium that is truly theirs – the first win comes sooner.
In this respect, they could have picked a worse opponent. Palace are almost certainly safe from relegation, and don’t have any chance of qualifying for Europe. Spurs, needing a win to solidify their top-four place, would have motivation even if it were not the first game at a new stadium, so they can be confident of a win. However, it wouldn’t be Spurs if they weren’t making it complicated for themselves, so it’s worth taking a look at Betway’s odds of 100/30 that they’ll win after having been level at half-time.
Kane the man for the moment?
Let’s think about this for a minute: Spurs are christening their new stadium, so there are plenty of firsts to come. Someone will be the first player to be booked here, someone else the first to be substituted. At some stage, someone will hit the first easily catchable cross to be uncomfortably flailed at by Hugo Lloris, leading to an entirely avoidable scoring opportunity for the visiting side. And of course, someone is going to score the first goal on this turf. If you’re fond of symbolism, surely this last “someone” has to be Harry Kane.
Although Kane was not on the scoresheet as his side lost 2-1 to Liverpool at the weekend, his scoring touch has clearly survived the month he spent on the sidelines with an ankle ligament injury. Perhaps more than any other player in the last few decades, he is the face of the club and it is almost unthinkable that anyone else could be the first to make the net bulge in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He’s 12/5 with Ladbrokes to do exactly that tonight, and it’s worth having a punt on him to do so.
First-night nerves could keep score down
While it’s reasonable to expect Spurs to take three points tonight, we wouldn’t be waiting on a fairytale beginning to the THS era. Between the nerves they’re sure to be feeling on the back of recent poor form, and those caused by the gravity of the occasion, this might not be the most fluent performance Pochettino’s side ever put out. Given the gritty tendency that Roy Hodgson has instilled in his Palace side, it’s also fair to assume that Spurs won’t have a cakewalk to the three points. As such, it would be no surprise if the first win at this stadium is chalked up with a workmanlike 1-0 as opposed to a five-goal thriller.
888sport are offering 5/4 on there being fewer than 2.5 goals on the night, and that looks like a hugely tempting bet. Spurs will settle into their new surroundings before too long, but it is likely to take a little longer than 90 minutes. Any win will do for a side much in need of three points – and Spurs come into this game level on points with fifth-placed Manchester United, so they could do with the boost here, given that they still have to go to Manchester City between now and the end of the season.
Bets of the Day:
Draw/Tottenham (Betway, 100/30); Kane to score first goal (Ladbrokes, 12/5); Fewer than 2.5 goals (888, 5/4)