Halfway to a landmark Champions League advancement but trying to strengthen their hold on a top-four spot in the Premier League, short-handed Tottenham Hotspur try to build on their midweek momentum Saturday when they host already-relegated Huddersfield Town at White Hart Lane.
Spurs (21-10-1) ended a five-match winless spell in league play April 3 with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the long-awaited and equally long-delayed grand opening of the renovated White Hart Lane. The Premier League christening, though, paled in comparison to the atmosphere and urgency of Tuesday’s first-leg Champions League quarterfinal tie versus Manchester City.
Needing a result to have any sort of realistic chance to reach the semifinals for the first time in club history, Spurs rose to the occasion Tuesday and emerged with a 1-0 victory over the reigning Premier League champions. Heung-Min Song fizzed a shot underneath Ederson in the 78th minute to separate the sides, who will meet at the Etihad twice in a span of four days next week, starting with Wednesday’s second-leg tie and next Saturday’s league match.
“It’s a dream and I always say, when you think positively, positive things happen,” said Son to the club’s official website. The South Korea international is already the answer to the trivia question of who scored the first goal at the renovated White Hart Lane after netting the first against Palace.
“I believe in my teammates, I believe in our fans, I believe in our stadium. It was an unbelievable performance from us. This is amazing.”
The victory, though, has come at a devastating price for the Lilywhites. Striker and England talisman Harry Kane is expected to be sidelined the remainder of the season with an ankle injury that forced him off before the hour versus City.
Kane, who suffered the injury making a needless challenge on Fabian Delph, had five goals in eight Champions League matches but also was in contention for his third Premier League Golden Boot in four seasons with 17 goals.
“It’s very, very sad. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to miss him — maybe for the rest of the season,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino told BT Sport. “It is a worry for us. We hope it is not a big issue. But there is not too much time to recover. He twisted his ankle so we will see how it reacts.”
Lost in the aftermath of the win and Kane’s injury was a key penalty save early by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris, who thwarted Sergio Aguero with a diving punch save to his left after a VAR review correctly determined Danny Rose committed a hand ball on a shot by Raheem Sterling. It was the third straight penalty save for Lloris, who previous denied Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the spot.
“It’s part of the game,” the World Cup-winning No. 1 said. “I’m very pleased to save a penalty at this important moment of the game, in front of one of the best strikers in the world. It’s always a good feeling. It’s about confidence, probably. I’m not used to saving many penalties in my career but the good thing is the three penalty saves this season have been very important for the team, so I can only be pleased with that.
“Then the team stayed strong until the end of the game. The crowd helped us, gave us an extra boost, gave us a lot of energy and at the end we are all happy with this result.”
Spurs are also waiting on the availability of Dele Alli, who underwent a scan to determine if he suffered a broken hand in the win over City. Spurs do have attacking options available, with Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente candidates to replace Kane, while Erik Lamela would pair in midfield with Christian Eriksen if Alli cannot play.
But with four teams vying for the final two Champions League spots – Spurs enter this match with a one-point lead over Arsenal for fourth while also two points back of Chelsea for third – Pochettino cannot afford to juggle his lineup all that much with an eye on resting players for the second-leg tie versus City.
Huddersfield Town (3-5-25) have little to play for save the role of spoilers, as they are already assured of returning to the Championship after a two-season stint in the top flight. The Terriers have lost five on the bounce and have one win in their last 20 league matches (1-1-18) after being overrun 4-1 at home by Leicester City on Saturday.
Aaron Mooy gave Huddersfield a lifeline with a penalty on 52 minutes to make it 2-1, but a goal on a free kick by James Maddison in the 79th minute consigned the Terriers to yet another defeat.
The lone bright spot of Mooy’s goal was it gave Huddersfield 19 on the season, one less than the Premier League-record low of 20 set by Derby County in 2007-08 with five matches remaining.
“First of all I have to say the credit from our side to Leicester as they were much more clinical than we were,” manager Jan Siewert told HTTV. “We tried everything, and this is exactly the quality in the Premier League I would say.
“In the situation where they have a 50/50 chance, they score, we need too many possibilities to score then.”
Huddersfield have taken just six points from their 16 road matches (1-3-12), losing the last five by a 14-3 scoreline. The Terriers are 0-1-9 in their last 10 outside John Smith’s Stadium and have shipped 35 on the road with only 11 in reply.
Town will be happy to avoid Kane considering he had a brace in nine minutes in Spurs’ 2-0 win in the reverse fixture. The Terriers have failed to score in three Premier League matches versus the Lilywhites, getting outscored 8-0.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Tottenham Hotspur 2, Huddersfield Town 0.
(Hugo Lloris photo courtesy Tottenham Hotspur official Twitter account)