Tottenham vs Bournemouth: What will and won’t happen
Europe? What Europe? We’ve got a title to win, y’all.
Move along, nothing to see here. From looking like capable Europa League winners to bowing out gracefully in a fortnight, it won’t really be clear for a couple of months whether Mauricio Pochettino’s rotation was worth it. Tottenham were humbled 5-1 on aggregate by Borussia Dortmund in the end, with Pochettino admitting he’d perhaps made a mistake resting four key players in the first-leg 3-0 stuffing.
Dortmund went full strength for both legs and, like Tottenham, are five points behind their league’s leader. But Dortmund are also 16 points clear of third, and being five points behind Bayern Munich is a very different proposition. Spurs have a gritty, grinding Leicester in their sights.
The north Londoners haven’t finished higher than 4th since 1990, and the last time they won the title some kids in leather jackets with bowl haircuts were trying to make it at the Cavern Club. But this Spurs are different – in control, and mostly pummelling their Premier League opponents to submission.
But this weekend they face a Bournemouth side who have been quietly brilliant since mid-January. Three wins on the spin have hauled them to what will eventually become guaranteed safety, and they’ve proved incredibly difficult to beat away – just one defeat in their last nine road trips.
The Cherries aren’t quite the plucky paupers they’ve been made out to be this season, but what Eddie Howe has achieved with a stack of big injuries this season is hugely impressive. Of last weekend’s 14 players who overcame Swansea 3-2, 10 helped the Cherries win promotion from the Championship, and seven were there when they clambered out of League One in 2013.
Facts and figures
- Bournemouth and Tottenham have only ever met twice, with the Cherries winning an FA Cup tie 3-1 in 1957 and Spurs claiming the Premier League match-up earlier this season 5-1.
- Tottenham have lost only 2 of their last 16 home league games (W9 D5).
- Bournemouth have lost just 1 of their last 9 away league matches (W4 D4). That defeat came in north London, though, at Arsenal.
- Harry Kane has scored 8 goals in his last 9 league games and now has 19 in the competition this season, just 2 away from his tally in 2014/15 (21).
- Dele Alli has had a hand in 14 goals in his last 19 league appearances for Spurs (6 goals, 8 assists).
- Only the current top two sides (Leicester, 34 and Tottenham, 33) have taken more points from league games since the start of December than Bournemouth (28).
Ben Davies lasted only 12 minutes of Thursday night’s 2-1 defeat to Dortmund after getting a whack to the head from colliding with Hugo Lloris, and probably won’t be risked. Jan Vertonghen (knee) and Clinton N’Jie (remember him?) won’t be back until early April.
Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter (Achilles) will be assessed on the morning of the game after missing the Cherries’ last two matches and most of training this week. Junior Stanislas (hamstrung) faces four to five weeks on the sidelines, joining long-term crocks Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings (both ACL).
Key battle: Kyle Walker vs Max Gradel
Bournemouth wideman Gradel netted his first goal since returning from a five-and-a-half month lay-off against Swansea last weekend – eight years after his last Cherries goal, when on loan from Leicester in 2008 – and assisted another for Josh King.
The tricky Ivory Coast international, a £7m signing from Saint-Etienne in the summer, will do his best to drag the attacking Walker out of position with his regular inside runs.
It’s testament to Walker that he’s kept his league place despite Kieran Trippier breathing down his neck all season. The England man has had a strong season to complement Danny Rose’s excellent year on the opposite flank, taking advantage of weaker teams when rampaging forward. At Aston Villa last weekend he got away three shots, but showed defensive competency to boot (all that green, below).
What won’t happen
“You know what, Jim, as a neutral I’m just going to see if I can get a stream of this Spurs game. There’s no way I’ll be watching the Manchester derby on Super Sunday.”
What will happen
Harry Kane to reach 20 goals for the season, as Bournemouth have an off-day in north London. 2-0 Spurs.