Tottenham have a chance to bounce back from their North London derby defeat, and they couldn’t have had a much softer landing than a home game against Southampton, who have sacked boss Mark Hughes after his side let a 2-0 lead slip at home to Manchester United. Saints – who will be under the control of caretaker boss Kelvin Davis for the evening – would have escaped the bottom three had Saturday’s game ended after 20 minutes. Instead, they remain deep in it, and are in for a long struggle.
For Mauricio Pochettino, it’s a chance to pick up three points against a team he bossed with some distinction and led to eighth place in 2014. His side will also have been stung by throwing away a lead at the weekend, having led Arsenal 2-1 at the break before three second-half goals gave the Gunners bragging rights over North London. That defeat ended a solid recent run for Spurs, but a comfortable win here could relegate it to the status of “blip”.
Tottenham vs Southampton Prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Southampton
Southampton’s decision to fire Claude Puel after their eighth-place finish in 2016 was questioned at the time, and given their almost permanent status as relegation battlers since then, those questions remain pertinent. Perhaps Davis’ caretaker spell will reveal a natural talent for organising and getting a performance out of a squad that is better than the last two years suggest. We’d suggest that 48 hours isn’t quite long enough to fully bring that to the surface, though, so Spurs should win this without any hiccups.
Our recommended tip: Tottenham HT & FT
In consecutive London derbies, Spurs have scored four first-half goals, and there’s evidently not much wrong with them in the attacking half of the pitch. Their defence might need some work, and next weekend’s trip to Leicester may see it tested, but unless Southampton locate the spine they’ve lacked all season in a hurry, the hosts should lead this game from pillar to post. William Hill have them at Evens (2.00) to lead at half time and win the game, and we’d say that’s arguably over-generous. If Spurs get back in their groove quickly, the game could be settled by half-time.
Southampton’s last trip to Wembley, under Pochettino’s compatriot and rhyming twin Mauricio Pellegrino, saw them take an expected hammering. A hat-trick from Harry Kane, with added goals from Son Heung-min and Dele Alli, saw the hosts to a 5-2 win which, if anything, flattered the Saints.
A measure of respect was salvaged when the sides met again shortly after that Boxing Day meeting, when the sides drew 1-1 in late January. An early Davinson Sanchez own goal after a quarter of an hour gave Southampton a short-lived lead, before Kane equalised on 18 minutes to secure a share of the points.
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Players to watch: Moussa Sissoko & Michael Obafemi
Signed for Newcastle on a £30million price tag that raised eyebrows, Sissoko’s early Tottenham career looked set to run aground when his early performances showcased inconsistency and a first touch so bad that his second tended to be a tackle. However, the Frenchman has shown immense character to improve his game beyond recognition under a great deal of pressure. His importance to Spurs now is not in dispute, and he’s exactly the kind of player that thrives in attritional games.
Obafemi has played few first-team games for Saints, but that can only be considered a positive given what the ever-presents have served up this season. Recently capped for the first time by Ireland, the teenager’s clever pass set up Stuart Armstrong for a superb opening goal against United. If retained here by Kelvin Davis – as he should be – Obafemi will gain valuable experience against a top opponent at the national stadium. With enthusiasm to match his evident talent, he could make a name for himself tonight.