When Tottenham Hotspur host Aston Villa on Wednesday in north London, it is a match-up that means almost nothing to Villa but everything to Spurs. While the Villans are almost certainly going to finish 11 Tottenham is fighting to finish as high as possible and secure Europa League football. Despite little on the line for the Lions, with fans in the stands for the first time all season, expect both teams to come ready to play. Here are three match-ups that are going to decide the game.
Tottenham’s right vs Villa’s left
Jack Grealish missed parts of four months with a major shin injury, just returning five days ago against Everton. In the two matches since then, Grealish has only 44 minutes. Maybe Dean Smith is saving Grealish for their home finale but likely he was just easing him back in with Tottenham in mind.
Jack Grealish missed the first meeting against Spurs and will certainly be looking to impact this game. Likely to line up as the left winger for Villa, Grealish could find himself against 22-year-old Japhet Tanganga, who is likely to start at right-back for Spurs. After a long layoff and the team looking for only its third win since April, expect Grealish to come prepared and ready to run at Tanganga.
Fortunately, Tottenham is likely to counter themselves with Gareth Bale – or possibly Steven Bergwijn – to run at Matt Targett. Targett is a solid defender who rarely makes mistakes and likes to play with the ball at his feet. Targett should be a target for Tottenham when he has the ball, with a less than 80% completion rate, the Lilywhites should be able to pick on Targett and force Grealish to help defensively more than he wants.
If Tottenham cannot push Targett back and force him into mistakes, it likely means a lot of balls down the line for Grealish and a long, long day for Japhet Tanganga.
Besides, the battle on Tottenham’s right flank here is two more match-ups where the winner favors their team.