Sunday is the return of Gareth Bale, if everything goes according to plan, Tottenham will have the game in hand before Bale gets his run-out for Spurs versus West Ham.
All eyes will be on Gareth Bale on Sunday as the Welch winger returns to N17 and a much different park and team than he left more some 7 years ago. However, Bale is more likely than not to come off the bench than play a starring role on Sunday. So who is likely to be start for Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, who makes the bench, and who is left in the stands for Spurs versus West Ham in the Premier League?
Goalkeepers and defenders
Hugo Lloris (GK) – Frenchman Hugo Lloris played 180 of 270 possible minutes for his home country over the international break. Those minutes included a shutout draw and a 1-2 victory and certainly do not preclude the captain of his country to come back and do the same for his Club. Midweek in Europa League might be a different story, but for the Premier League after a break, Lloris is the guy.
Matt Doherty (RB) – Both Matt Doherty for Republic of Ireland and Serge Aurier for Ivory Coast were active during the international period, so some extra ‘rest’ does not shed any real light on who will start at the wing-back for Spurs on Sunday. The reality is, between the arrival of Mourinho and Doherty, we are again seeing the best of Serge Aurier, so Jose cannot go wrong with his choice at right back. My thought is Doherty starts Sunday and Aurier goes midweek, but it could go either way.
Davinson Sanchez (CB) – With the exceptions of Japhet Tanganga and Cameron Carter-Vickers – neither of whom are likely to start this weekend – all three of the primary center-half options for Tottenham Hotspur played internationally. I am hesitant to list Sanchez here, as I am sure Mourinho is too, as the Columbian travelled a several thousand more miles than everyone else, serving duty in World Cup qualifiers in South America. However, Eric Dier seemed to have picked up a knock with England, missing their third game entirely and need not be risked.
Toby Alderweireld (CB) – Dier has a slight knock and if Sanchez is at one center back position that pretty much leaves us with Toby at the other. While maybe we get the surprise and see Tanganga start at one of the two positions, being solid defensively is what Mourinho wants and Alderweireld and Sanchez provide that for Spurs.
Sergio Reguilón (LB) – Sergio Reguilón is still available now and after returning from his own little knock to feature again for Spain, one would expect to see the young flyer back at left back for Tottenham. Ben Davies could be an option here or even could be considered to play the left center-half position if Toby or Sanchez is feeling a bit lagged. The fact is Reguilón brings something special to left back and Spurs need to unleash it.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (CM) – Having watched the Dane play now for several months, I can see Pierre-Emile Højbjerg often being one of the first names Jose Mourinho puts down on his squad list. PEH really is an all-around and more importantly all-action midfielder who can provide the both a box-to-box and defensive presence in one package. It is difficult to imagine barring injury Pierre-Emile Højbjerg not playing some of nearly every match Spurs play.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) – Is it Winks, is it Sissoko, or is it something slightly more tantalizing for the eyes with Ndombele AND Lo Celso lined up in front of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Given the return from the break and the opportunity to do more experimentation midweek in Europa League, my money is on the conservative approach of a two-man pivot. The reality is West Ham United is a derby and they are going to want to get something out of this match which is supposed to be all about Gareth Bale and Tottenham. Mourinho knows that and is not going to go all out offensively, rather be sound in the back and Sissoko next to PEH does that for Spurs.
Tanguy Ndomble (CAM) – Tanguy Ndombele was just looking to hit his stride when the international break came, whereas Giovani Lo Celso hit the break nursing an injury. With fitness in mind, I see Tanguy Ndombele getting the nod as the creative force for the team in front of the double pivot of Sissoko and Højbjerg. While I do not expect an hour from Ndombele, I do expect him to run the show for a good 60-70 minutes knocking the ball all over the park.
Son Heung-Min (LW) – Son was scoring a lot of goals when the break hit and he stayed at N17 for some rest and additional training. Gareth Bale in the side or not Son is a nailed on starter right now for Tottenham Hotspur. This front three in time will be something to behold.
Harry Kane (ST) – Harry Kane had to work a bit more than he wanted in England’s final Nations League game this past week, but after only 120 minutes in nearly two weeks, the English captain should be fit and ready for Tottenham Hotspur. Kane was a bit rusty in his last national team outing but looked really sharp by the end with Calvert-Lewin and more movement on the pitch around him. With Son and others around for Spurs, Kane should be just fine Sunday.
Lucas Moura (RW) – I imagine most folks will be wanting to see Gareth Bale as this other wing positon or maybe at the left wing position. However, given lack of minutes Bale has played over the last several months, it just does not make sense to rush him out in the starting line-up. With Bale not starting, this could be Steven Bergwijn, but is most likely Lucas Moura who is a Mourinho favorite. With Bergwijn, Bale, and even Jack Clarke all pushing for minutes at the wings with Son and Moura, we should see an energetic and active Brazilian on Sunday.
With Gareth Bale among the additions to Tottenham Hotspur the strength of the bench continues to grow. We have Ben Davies, Serge Aurier, and Joe Hart as part of the seven on the pine, because we need back-up defenders and a keeper. Then add in Gareth Bale and that is four of seven slots taken. Erik Lamela certainly deserves to at least make the bench given his play this season. That gives two attackers and three defenders, so the question is do we have more attackers or midfielders fill out the rest.
Steven Bergwijgn needs to keep making the bench as he is just to talented not to grow and then I suppose the fittest of Dele Alli, Harry Winks, or Giovani Lo Celso is included to add midfield depth. Given Dele is the only one of the three that was around the entire break, if he is not the guy here, that may be bad news, so I am taking Dele and saving Gio for midweek entirely.