Should there be a list of Spurs’ priorities stashed away somewhere in Mauricio Pochettino’s office, it probably starts with the Premier League and ends with the Europa League, with Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace nestled in the middle.
Does that mean that we’re going to see him split the difference between the six changes he’s made on Thursday in the Europa League tie against Fiorentina? Perhaps.
That Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele all sat on the bench in that match seems to suggest that some combination – or all – would appear in Sunday’s visit from Palace.
Still, there’s a match to come against Fiorentina on Thursday, and with a 1-1 draw all that Spurs could take from their trip to Italy it will be important to rest some meaningful players if Pochettino wants to be able to proceed in that competition.
And so we come to who actually will start against Palace on Sunday. Spurs’ London rivals aren’t exactly the same level of competition as Fiorentina – currently third in Serie A – so Pochettino might still have some leeway to work with. Though not as much as he would have liked.
Beyond the injuries long expected for this tie – Jan Vertonghen and Clinton Njie – there are some other complications that have only come up in the past week. Hugo Lloris sustained a shoulder injury in the dying stages of last week’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City, while Tom Carroll and Erik Lamela both picked up knocks that could make them unavailable on Sunday.
So who starts?
Kyle Walker and Danny Rose retake their spots on either side of the defence, while Toby Alderweireld deserves a rest. With Vertonghen injured, it could be that recent first team addition Cameron Carter-Vickers that gets his first start for Spurs.
The 18-year-old American centre-back has progressed rapidly up Spurs’ academy system in recent years, and now captains the under-21 side. He is the presumptive heir to Kevin Wimmer’s spot on the bench, though Pochettino hasn’t made him a permanent addition to the first team quite yet. This will be his first audition for the club.
Otherwise, Eric Dier will return to central midfield alongside Ryan Mason, while Heung-min Son, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli should retain their spots in the attack.
Harry Kane will likely return to the top however. Spurs’ talisman is the only recognized striker in the squad, so Pochettino was right to rest him against Fiorentina. Here, though, he should continue his typically threatening game against another mid-to-lower table team.
And for Palace? Alan Pardew has some incentive to name a strong squad here, especially considering they have no other obligations during the Premier League break like Spurs. They have the luxury of treating this like just another week competing in the league.
How well even a strong Palace side would do against a three-quarters strength Spurs side isn’t exactly debatable. Pochettino and company should earn their third win of the season over the Eagles.