Tottenham welcome mid-table Watford to their temporary-but-increasingly-permanent Wembley home on the back of an interesting week. In the past seven days the hosts have seen an end to two cup runs, as Chelsea and Crystal Palace knocked them out of the Carabao and FA Cups respectively. They have also seen rivals Manchester City surprisingly beaten by Newcastle, bringing second place within the London club’s reach. To add to this, forward Son Heung-Min is available to Spurs earlier than expected after South Korea’s shock exit from the Asian Cup.
For Watford, who occupy a decent ninth place after a see-saw first half to the season, this could be a chance to spring a shock as their hosts come into the game without their best striker and most productive midfielder. The Hornets are currently on a good run, have yet to lose in 2019, and were triumphant in the reverse game at Vicarage Road. A win for Spurs would bring them just two points behind Manchester City – but the three points are a long way off being guaranteed here.
Tottenham vs Watford Prediction: Tottenham 1-0 Watford
There is little doubt that Spurs have been affected by the loss of Harry Kane and Dele Alli. They looked very shaky in teasing out a narrow win at Fulham before heading into the double-header of cup games that ended in consecutive eliminations. Even before that, though, they’d toiled and lost at home to Manchester United, and it would be no surprise to see Son, ready and willing to play, thrust straight back into the starting XI at the expense of the hard-working but limited Llorente. That upgrade in attack should be enough to get Mauricio Pochettino’s men the win, but it won’t be easy.
Our recommended tip: Son FGS
Pochettino’s inactivity in the transfer market was always going to eventually be seen as either a genius exercise in squad unity, or a careless failure to ensure squad depth. The needle is tilting towards the latter at the moment, as the side will be without the goals and leadership of Kane and the midfield ingenuity of Alli until Spring has sprung. The good news for Spurs is that South Korea contrived to lose to Qatar last week, freeing up Son to play a part for his club. He’s 10/3 with Paddy Power to do so by scoring the first goal, and it looks like a realistic possibility here.
This is something of a reunion for these sides, as they met twice in the month of September, right back in the early days of the season. One of those was in the League, when Watford kept alive the most unlikely 100% record in the division by coming back from a 53rd-minute Doucoure own-goal to win 2-1 thanks to two splendid Holebas deliveries, headed home by first Troy Deeney on 69, and then Craig Cathcart on 76.
Watford led again in a Carabao Cup meeting three weeks later, Isaac Success having notched just after half time. In a madcap last ten minutes, Alli and then Erik Lamela scored to put Spurs in front before an equaliser from Etienne Capoue. In the resulting penalty shoot-out, the hosts held their nerve to knock out the Hornets.
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Players to watch: Son Heung-Min & Deulofeu
Son has spent much of his Spurs career being damned with faint praise – positive comments about his “energy” and “enthusiasm” masking the fact that he’s also skilful, effective and – for someone asked to fit into a number of positions on the field – a very prolific goalscorer. There’s no doubt his teammates will be happy to have him back here, and nobody would be surprised to see him score a crucial goal on his return to domestic duty. South Korea’s loss is very much Spurs’ gain.
Barcelona. Everton. Sevilla. Milan. Barcelona again. Watford. Deulofeu’s career path has not been conventional, that’s for sure, but he has a habit of making a big difference wherever he turns up. Operating mostly as a winger, the Catalan (who’s still only 24) is tricky with the ball at his feet, and capable of stepping in with goals and assists. As Watford tend to play with strong target men, Deulofeu can usually rely on having a bit of space to weave his magic – and more so at Wembley.