Tottenham travel to giantkillers Crystal Palace Wednesday night in a must-win match if the visitors hope to keep pace with Chelsea.
With the Blues’ win over Southampton on Tuesday, seven points now separate Tottenham from the top of the Premier League. A win at Selhurst Park would again narrow that gap to four points.
On the other side of the pitch, Palace’s safety this season is essentially guaranteed. That doesn’t mean that Sam Allardyce’s side will be any less enthused to add Spurs to a hit list that. Already this month alone they have earned wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Which is to say that this will be a testy match. Mauricio Pochettino is tasked with fielding a side that can keep the pressure on Palace’s defense while also minding the threat of counter-attacks on the other half of the pitch.
To take on that mission, Pochettino has resorted to a familiar formation.
With Victor Wanyama fully fit again, Spurs are again able to return Eric Dier to part of a back three. That, in turn, pushes Kyle Walker and and Ben Davies up into wing-back roles, while freeing up Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane at the top.
This is a similar formation to the one utilized in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Chelsea, though with some different components. Both Walker and Davies were rested for that match as Pochettino opted to give starts to Kieran Trippier and Heung-min Son in the wing-backs roles.
That is arguably Trippier’s strongest position, but it represented a shift for Son, who usually lines up at wide forward. The South Korean was largely ineffective in the new role, failing to influence the attack while also giving up a penalty on the other end.
Spurs’ return to a more conventional wing-back pair hints that Pochettino is taking Palace’s wide threat seriously.
With Wilfried Zaha and former Spurs man Andros Townsend manning the flanks, that threat is very real. Walker and Davies will put miles in tracking back to deny them space while also hoping to exploit the space left in behind Palace’s adventurous wide corp.
Christian Benteke will be Spurs’ primary concern however. Expect Jan Vertonghen to mark his countryman as he looks for service through the air from the wings.
Check back here following the match for a full report as well as additional coverage.