Champions League Match Day 3 Preview — PSV Eindhoven (0-0-2, 0, -5) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0-0-2, 0, -3)

It’s put up or shut up time for Tottenham Hotspur, whose chances of progressing from Group B of the Champions League hinge on these next two matches against PSV Eindhoven, starting with Wednesday’s match at Philips Stadion versus the Dutch side.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Spurs are in third place in the group, ahead of PSV on goal difference, but that means little to both clubs since neither of them have a point while Barcelona and Inter Milan both have six. The north London side, which reached the knockout round last year, failed to keep up with Barcelona in their last group match earlier this month, falling 4-2 to the Catalans at Wembley Stadium, and manager Mauricio Pochettino knows nothing but three points will do.

“After defeats against Inter and Barcelona, for us, it’s a must-win game,” he told Tottenham’s official website. “If we want to be alive (in the competition) it’s so important to win. “We’re going to play a very good team, a team that is very offensive, a team first in their league. It will be tough, like always in the Champions League.

“Strategies are not important. Tactics are not important. I think about nothing but to be competitive and win because it’s three points we must win. It’s not a game that is going to give us another opportunity. We are ready to compete, we are ready to try to win and then it’s 90 minutes and we need to be better than them.”

Spurs are still dealing with a spate of injuries and will be without central defender Jan Vertonghen, left back Danny Rose and playmaker Dele Alli among their top XI. But the Lilywhites did get a boost when Denmark international Christian Eriksen made a late appearance in their 1-0 derby win at West Ham United last weekend after missing the last four matches through injury.

Either Eriksen or Heung-Min Son is expected to slot into Alli’s place on the left wing while leaving the middle to Erik Lamela, who continues to be in blistering form with four goals in his last six matches in all competitions after netting the winner against West Ham. Harry Kane leads Tottenham with six goals overall, his last coming in the loss to Barcelona.

Spurs’ Champions League form is in direct contrast to their current league form, where they have won four on the trot and recorded three consecutive clean sheets. History is clearly against Tottenham, as none of the 41 sides who failed to claim at least one point from their first two group matches dating back to 2003-04 have progressed to the knockout round.

“I think we can learn from what happened with Real Madrid last season in our group,” Spurs midfielder and England international Eric Dier told The Times, referring to how the reigning three-time champions battled their way through group play — claiming just one point versus Tottenham — before turning on the class to lift Ol’ Big Ears.

“I’m not saying we’re going to get out of the group and win the Champions League. Or that we are Real Madrid. But they had a very difficult time to get out of our group last year, and then they ended up going on to win it. “So I think the most important thing for us is to stay calm, to keep believing that it’s possible and try to win every game.”

PSV, who have not been out of the group stages since 2015-16 and made a group exit the following season in their most recent showing since this term, have been as dominant domestically in the Eredivisie as they have been overrun by Inter and Barca in continental play.

The Dutch side rolled up 10 goals without reply in their two matches since their 2-1 loss at home to Inter Milan in which they squandered a first-half lead and are coming off a 6-0 thrashing of Emmen on Saturday, ringing up season bests of 13 shots on goal and 29 overall. Gaston Pereiro and Luuk De Jong had first-half braces before Erick Gutierrez and Hirving Lozano added gloss to the scoreline in the final 11 minutes.

De Jong’s name is starting to be linked with higher-profile clubs thanks to his strong start in which he has totaled nine goals and three assists in all competitions. Lozano, the Mexico international, leads PSV with 10 markers, while Pereiro rounds out the Dutch attacking trident with eight goals to go with five assists.

Yet for all the offensive fireworks Eindhoven can supply, they know their only lifeline out of this group — whether it be either the knockout round or Europa League — is through better play defensively, and that means shutting down Kane.

“He is one of the best strikers in the world,” defender Angelino told the club’s official website. “But you will always meet good players in this competition. You only face tough tests in the UEFA Champions League. We have to earn victory. It would be great for our loyal fans.”

The teams have scant history head-to-head, meeting only in the round of 16 in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup. Each side posted a 1-0 road victory before PSV progressed on penalties at White Hart Lane. PSV are 4-2-3 at home against English clubs in Champions League play, with the last contest a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in 2015.

Tottenham, though, have a stellar track record in the Netherlands with five wins and one draw in seven all-time visits. Eriksen and centre back Toby Alderweireld have ties through PSV rivals Ajax, coming through the club’s developmental success before finding success in Europe. Alderweireld’s replacement in this contest, Colombia international Davinson Sanchez, helped Ajax reach the Europa League final in 2017.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Spurs are solid favourites to stay in contention to advance to the knockout round as they have 11/10 odds to grab all three points. PSV are 9/4 underdogs to hold serve at home in the first of the two matches between the sides, while a sharing of the points has 13/5 odds.

The Lilywhites have 2/1 odds to win with the match featuring more than 2.5 goals, and a low-scoring draw rates slightly better at 21/5 than a 1-0 or 2-0 Spurs victory (24/5). For the Dutch club, they have 15/4 odds to pull of a victory with more than 2.5 goals and are a 15/2 pick for a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline.

Kane is the clear first-choice to be the first goal-scorer of the match at 14/5, followed by Fernando Llorente (9/2). PSV forwards de Jong and Lozano are teamed together at 11/2 to make it 1-0, while Spurs strikers Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son are paired at 7/1 for 0-1 scoreline choices. Despite his recent fine run of form, Lamela is an 8/1 longshot to open the scoring.

Kane is expected to score over the course of 90 minutes with 5/6 odds, with Llorente again second at 6/4. Lamela’s odds drop significantly to 5/2 to score for Spurs, just behind Son and Moura at 11/5. De Jong and Lozano are again PSV’s top options, this time at 17/10 to find the back of the net, with Gaston Pereiro also a 5/2 option for the Dutch club.

PREDICTION

As Pochettino’s comments made clear, this contest is less about tactics and more about hunger and desperation for Spurs, who can ill-afford to be anything but ruthless in this match and next if they have any designs on catching either Barcelona or Inter. The London side are also likely rooting for the Catalans to stamp their superiority on this group in the other match to have a chance to reel Inter Milan back to them.

While Eindhoven have run riot domestically — as expected — with 36 goals, they have conceded just three in their 9-0-0 start in the Eredivisie, and keeper Jeroen Zoet has recorded five straight clean sheets domestically around the group defeats. While unfortunate to not come away with at least one point against Inter Milan, Marco Van Bommel’s side have every right to feel they can at least take one in this match and then have everything to play for in a fortnight at Wembley with similar hopes to Spurs the other results in Group B fall their way.

The “Spurs are tired” trope after a summer of inactivity and so many players participating in the World Cup will get no play from Van Bommel, who is an admirer of Pochettino’s ways and realises Tottenham have plenty of quality across the board even without three of their regualrs in Alli, Alderweireld and Rose. Two of those replacements — Lamela and Sanchez — will be in the spotlight at each end of the pitch, and while Eriksen may not be there at the start, he likely will be there at the finish to provide a potential swing vote.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: PSV 1, Tottenham Hotspur 3

OTHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH DAY 3 PREVIEWS:

Manchester United (1-1-0) vs. Juventus (2-0-0)
Shakhtar Donetsk (0-2-0) vs. Manchester City (1-0-1)
Liverpool (1-0-1) vs. Red Star Belgrade (0-1-1)

Champions League Match Day 2 preview — Barcelona (1-0-0, +4, 4-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0-0-1, -1, 1-2)

Last year, Tottenham Hotspur announced their intentions to be a player at the continental level with their stellar play against Spanish power Real Madrid in Champions League group play.

This time around, the injury-ravaged north London side will need another such performance just to make sure they don’t dig too deep a hole for themselves to get out of Group B on Tuesday when they face leaders Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Tottenham endured their first downswing of the season, recovering from three losses on the bounce in all competitions with a pair of league wins around advancing in the Carabao Cup on penalties over Watford. Harry Kane appears ready to kick on for the season after his stellar World Cup for England, recording a first-half brace in Spurs’ 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Kane, though, will be receiving service from a midfield significantly thinned through injury. Playmakers Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are sidelined, along with defender Jan Vertonghen. Barcelona’s potent trident of ex-Liverpool strikers Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez along with Lionel Messi means Erik Lamela’s creativity might be anchored to the bench as Harry Winks and Eric Dier soak up pressure until he becomes vital to potentially rescue a point.

“Tomorrow we do not win or lose because players are out,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino told The Times. “We win or lose and take responsibility. If we don’t win, it is because we do not deserve to and it will be my responsibility. I don’t want easy excuses. Of course I prefer everyone to be available but I am not going to say we don’t have a chance because this or that guy is out.”

Still, it was Winks who was a revelation for Tottenham last season with a spectacular effort in their 1-1 draw at Real Madrid that doubled as the London side’s coming out party to the continent en route to their eventual round of 16 finish. His distribution forward could be the swing vote in this game that determines just how much work the Spurs have left in their final four group matches.

One guy expected to be back in is No. 1 keeper Hugo Lloris, who missed six games due to a thigh injury on the heels of his drink-driving arrest in August, including Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at Inter Milan to open group play a fortnight ago in which No. 2 Michel Vorm conceded twice after the 85th minute. He was then injured, forcing Pochettino to turn to Paulo Gazzaniga for the last three contests.

Lloris has not played since posting a clean sheet in the Lilywhites’ most complete performance of the season, a 3-0 victory at Manchester United on Aug. 27.

Barcelona are atop Group B after a comprehensive 4-0 thrashing of Dutch side PSV Eindhoven two weeks ago as Messi recorded his 48th career hat trick and raised his Champions League goal haul to 103 in 126 matches. The Argentina international opened the scoring in the 32nd minute before adding his other two in the final 13 minutes following a marker by Ousmane Dembele to start the final quarter-hour.

Messi has not been as proficient outside the Nou Camp in Champions League play, though his 41 goals in 64 away matches cannot be simply binned and ignored. He has also factored on six of Barca’s last eight goals in all competitions over the last four matches, but the defence has not been up to snuff as they have recorded draws at home versus Girona and Athletic Bilbao around a 2-1 defeat at Leganes.

Attacking midfielder Ivan Rakitic, no stranger to an England-laden Spurs side after he tormented a good portion of them in leading Croatia to victory in the World Cup semifinals, said that Barcelona are in good spirits despite the recent run of disappointing results.

“Defending Barça is the greatest thing there is,” he told the club’s official website. “Two games shouldn’t affect us and the important thing is to be all together. We must improve, but we are calm because we are preparing well.”

Manager Ernesto Valverde has been forced into one change for this match, with centre back Samuel Umtiti serving a one-match ban for his two bookings against PSV. That puts Clement Lenglet squarely in Kane’s cross-hairs as he will try to form an airtight tandem with Gerald Pique. That, however, has not happened as Barcelona have yet to record a clean sheet in the two matches they have started together.

One of the interesting sidebars to this contest is Valverde was the manager who ended Pochettino’s playing career while at Espanyol. The Spurs boss said there are no hatchets to bury since they spoke to each other during their tour of the United States in the summer, though Pochettino did admit in his book Valverde’s decision was “hard to accept.”

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Barcelona are firm road favourites with 19/20 odds, while Spurs are 5/2 underdogs. The odds of the teams splitting the points are slightly longer than a home side victory at 13/5.

Oddsmakers are expecting there to be goals at Wembley, with Barca getting 7/4 odds to win with more than 2.5 goals scored, while Spurs are getting 4/1 odds on the high side of goals scored. The odds of a 0-0 draw or 1-1 draw are 17/4, slightly shorter than a 1-0 or 2-0 Barcelona win (19/4). There is not much confidence in a low-scoring Spurs victory, which shares the longest odds with a 2-2 draw or higher at 8/1.

Messi leads the list for first goal-scorers at 16/5, edging out Kane and Suarez — who are joint-second at 4/1. Munir El Hadaddi, who has played all of 72 minutes this season for Barcelona, is a curious fourth option at 5/1 ahead of Spurs reserve striker Fernando Llorente (13/2) and Dembele (7/1).

Messi has better than even money to score during the match at 19/20, with Kane not far behind him at 6/5. Suarez lurks behind the pair at 13/10, with Coutinho and Spurs counterpart Heung-Min Son further back at 12/5, just ahead of Lucas Moura (13/5).

PREDICTION

While Pochettino is correct in moving on past the lament of who is not available for him in this game, getting Lloris back — as expected — is a huge bonus for Tottenham. A better shot-stopper than Gazzaniga, Lloris will also command the penalty area batter than the third-string keeper, something that was vitally missing late in the Lilywhites’ defeat at the San Siro when Inter came at them in waves.

Missing Vertonghen, though, will be a huge negative and one that may result in Pochettino playing more of a five-man back at times similar to what they did at the Bernabeu last season. The wide backs’ discipline will be especially important on the left, where Ben Davies will be tasked with making sure Rakitic doesn’t make overlapping runs and various other offensive feints in tandem with Messi.

Messi, Suarez and Coutinho have accounted for 70 of Barcelona’s 150 shots on target thus far and 13 of their 22 goals. Suarez, though, has a spotty track record on the road in Champions League play, going 13 matches without a marker since netting at AS Roma in 2015. In his abbreviated run with Liverpool last term before joining Barcelona and having to watch knockout round play, Coutinho totaled five goals and three assists in five group matches before getting an assist versus PSV.

How Tottenham go in the midfield is how this match will likely go. If Dier and Winks can disrupt passes and hold possession, the Spurs can find themselves in a position to potentially steal three points. If they wind up chasing ghosts amid the rapid-fire passing of Rakitic, Arthur, and Sergio Busquets and leaving open patches of pitch for Messi and company, it will be a long night at Wembley.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Tottenham Hotspur 2, BARCELONA 3.

OTHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH DAY 2 PREVIEWS:

Napoli (0-1-0) vs. Liverpool (1-0-0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-1) vs. Liverpool (4-0-0)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

They are sides cut from different clothes seeking a similar end game: A Premier League title and with a little bit of luck, Champions League glory.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur kick off the fifth match day Saturday at Wembley Stadium in a mouth-watering clash of top-five sides set to embark on their respective European adventures.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Reds (4-0-0) are atop the table on the maximum 12 points, ahead of resurgent Chelsea and surprise package Watford on goal difference. Their run to the Champions League final last spring emboldened the franchise to end a silverware drought now in its seventh season since winning the 2012 League Cup as they spent the summer spending the kitty from Philippe Coutinho’s sale to Barcelona.

The primary goal was to find a goalkeeper with the mental fortitude to go with the elite physical shot-stopping skills needed to challenge the league and continent’s best clubs. The other was finding players to fit Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing style.

Both have meshed well as Liverpool have conceded once thus far, and that goal was a howler by their £65 million man between the sticks – Alisson. The Brasil international may be too confident with the ball at his feet, as he was caught out trying to dribble around Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who dispossessed him and set up the goal that made that 2-1 victory a fortnight ago more nerve-wracking than needed.

It may be the only blemish for a Liverpool team which boasts a lethal attack in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The trio have accounted for seven of the team’s nine goals, and Mane is joint-leader in the Premier League on four with Fulham’s Aleksander Mitrovic.

Heading into a Champions League group that has a staggering amount of firepower in France’s Paris-Saint Germain, paced by Alisson’s compatriot Neymar and France starlet Kylian Mbappe, and Italy’s Napoli boasting scorers and playmakers in Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insgine and Marek Hamsik, both attack and defence – along with depth – are going to be needed for the Reds to have the kind of season they envisioned with their aggressive summer spending spree.

“I’m looking forward to the game against Tottenham, especially now because in the next few weeks we have a lot of games, a lot of good games, difficult games,” forward Xherdan Shaqiri told Sky Sports, fully expecting to see more playing time than the 27 minutes he has logged thus far as Liverpool begin chasing titles on three fronts when including the Carabao Cup. “But we will try to keep our good performances and I hope we can win a lot of games.

“We train hard every day. You can see that there is a lot of quality in our team and we are hard-working every day. And competition in football is also good for the players.”

Klopp made only one change to his XI over the last four games, and that was introducing Jordan Henderson into the midfield after 2017 signing and newcomer Naby Keita started the first three matches while the England international rested following World Cup duties. The biggest outfield signing Liverpool made this summer – midfielder Fabinho at a £39 million price tag – has yet to play a single minute, but that is expected to change in either this game or Wednesday’s Champions League opener versus PSG.

“My start has been good and the adaptation good. The pre-season was very good, we had nine friendlies and I played nine,” Fabinho told Globo Esporte.

“It was good to play against English teams to see what the rhythm, the intensity and the physique is like. I am adapting to the team’s style of play. The more experienced players have helped me, the technical team as well.”

Dejan Lovren remains the lone injury absence as Liverpool are not rushing the Croatia international to return from an abdominal injury. Joe Gomez is expected to continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk in central defence, with Joel Matip also available.

Tottenham (3-0-1) have taken a pair of large injury hits which again calls their decision not to reinforce the squad during the summer window into question. While Liverpool spent, Spurs scrimped – they were the first side in Premier League history not to spend money in the summer window since it came to be.

As they impatiently wait to move into their new version of White Hart Lane – this was supposed to be the first match in their new digs — Tottenham believe their core is enough to bring them to new heights in Europe in a demanding group with perennials Barcelona, Italian side Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands and challenge at home for their first league title since 1961.

Striker and World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane netted two goals and an assist in the first four matches, and Lucas Moura has made a full adjustment to life with the Spurs after his January arrival and paces the side with three goals. Kane and England compatriot Kieran Trippier were also shortlisted for the FIFA FIFpro World XI.

Spurs had their 100 percent start end in surprising fashion at Watford before the international break. The upstart Hornets, who are third in the table with the maximum 12 points, rallied and struck twice in a seven-minute span against backup keeper Michael Vorm as he deputised for injured No. 1 Hugo Lloris.

Vorm is going to be between the sticks for the foreseeable future, as Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino announced Thursday that Lloris would miss “several weeks” with a thigh injury suffered in their win over Manchester United on Aug. 27 that also caused the World Cup winner to miss France’s first two Nations League matches.

Spurs will also be without attacking midfielder Dele Alli due to a hamstring injury suffered while with England on international duty. It is also likely to sideline him for Tottenham’s Champions League opener at Inter Milan on Tuesday. Pochettino will likely choose between Erik Lamela and Harry Winks to fill that spot.

They do get back forward Heung-Min Son, who missed the previous three matches helping South Korea win the gold medal in the Asian Games. The title also earned Son, who assisted on both goals in the 2-1 win over Japan in extra time, an exemption from the 21-month compulsory military service all South Korean males must do before the age of 28.

The Lilywhites ended a 10-match winless spell (0-3-7) to Liverpool in all competitions with an emphatic 4-1 thrashing in last season’s corresponding fixture. Kane and Son scored in the first 12 minutes, and after Salah pulled one back before the half-hour, Alli restored the two-goal lead in first-half stoppage time before Kane completed a brace on 56 minutes.

Kane, who also had a match-tying penalty in the 2-2 draw at Anfield in February, has five goals and two assists in seven league matches versus Liverpool. Salah accounted for all three goals for the Reds against the north London side last term.

PUNTER’S NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are slight 5/4 favourites, while Tottenham check in at 19/10. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 5/2. In terms of the 2.5 goals over/under benchmark, Liverpool are 9/4 favourites with the over, and Spurs are 13/4. The intrigue also comes for those who believe this will be a goal-fest, as a Liverpool win and over 3.5 goals gets a 9/2 return, while a Spurs win over 3.5 goals is listed at 13/2 odds. The odds of a 2-2 draw is 8/1 for both 2.5 and 3.5 goals.

For first goal-scorers, Kane and Salah are joint leaders, as expected, with 7/2 odds. Despite his recent form, Moura is 15/2, behind the Liverpool tandem of Firmino and Mane, who are both 13/2. One of the more intriguing “GetAPrice” picks is Salah at 6/1 odds to get a goal and an assist in this match.

PREDICTION

Though Liverpool have not shown the rampant form of their lid-lifting 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in their other three victories, they have gotten the job done as evidenced by their 100 percent record. Everything has gone status quo for Klopp, and with both Lloris and Alli absent for Spurs, there is a better-than-average chance it will continue at Wembley.

It will be interesting to see who replaces Alli, with the most likely option Winks with a lesser likelihood of Son, who played eight games in 26 days for South Korea. Son feels like a more likely option for the final half-hour than the first hour. This will be a big game for Moussa Dembele, who gets the unenviable task of trying to stop Liverpool’s build-up through the midfield and the linkup from Milner and company to the Salah-Firmino-Mane strike force.

The “Kane is tired” trope has been trotted out ahead of this match, which seems counterintuititve since the Spurs striker did end his August goal-scoring blues in league play already and also was held out of England’s friendly versus Switzerland. But it is another chance for Gomez to shine in Liverpool’s defence. In the end, this will be another match Liverpool grind more than glide through, and a late second when Spurs hunt for an equaliser would not be surprising.

Predicted Final Score: Tottenham Hotspur 0, LIVERPOOL 2

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Watford vs. Manchester United
Everton vs. West Ham United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 4 Preview: Watford (3-0-0) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-0)

Perhaps there was a method to Tottenham Hotspur’s madness of inactivity in the summer window.

Owning the maximum nine points, the Lilywhites look to open a season with four league victories for the first time in nine years Sunday when they face upstart Watford in an unexpected clash of top-four sides.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Much continues to be made of the Lilywhites’ decision to stand pat in the summer transfer window, an unprecedented stance by a Premier League team in the 15 years of its existence. Yet even coming off a World Cup summer, club chairman Daniel Levy and manager Mauricio Pochettino have been validated by their decision early, the latest evidence provided in an emphatic 3-0 rout at Manchester United on Monday.

Harry Kane scored his first league goal at the “Theatre of Dreams” five minutes after the restart with a perfectly placed header off a corner from Kieran Trippier, and Lucas Moura added a brace as Spurs (3-0-0) made a statement of intent they intend to challenge reigning champions Manchester City and Liverpool for league honours.

Both Kane and Moura have scored in each of Tottenham’s last two matches, with Moura scoring three goals after producing just one in 12 following his move from PSG in January. Kane, meanwhile, has 61 in his last 70 league matches and furthered the proficiency that warranted his new £90 million contract signed in June.

“It’s massive, just what we needed,” Kane told Spurs’ official website. “We need to kill teams off, especially away from home. “As a club, we want to stay top of the league and the only way to do that is by coming to places like this and getting results, so (Monday) is a huge statement.”

Kane has 142 goals with Tottenham, one shy of tying Jermain Defoe for fifth on the club’s all-time list.

The win also quieted the talk around keeper Hugo Lloris, who turned in his first clean sheet of the season less than 72 hours after being arrested for drink driving. The backstop of France’s World Cup-winning squad retained the captain’s armband and came up with a pivotal save on Romelu Lukaku shortly after Kane’s goal that preserved the slim margin before Moura struck on 52 minutes.

“Hugo knows he made a big mistake,” Pochettino told the BBC after the match. “We will support him, knowing it cannot be justified. He has apologised to fans, us, the whole country. He is punishing himself. He feels so bad.”

Spurs have not opened a season with four league wins on the trot since 2009-10 under Harry Redknapp but faded to a fourth-place finish. Pochettino is understandably pleased with the start but is not getting ahead of himself as Spurs will start gearing up for Champions League opponents Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan after the international break.

“The most important thing is to keep calm,” he said. “If at the end of the season with 10 games to go and we are in a good position then we have already shown we can fight.”

Twenty-four kilometres to the west just outside London’s city limits, Watford (3-0-0) are the unexpected team out of the four on nine points alongside Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs. Javi Gracia’s team has confounded pundits who thought the selling of Richarlison to Everton would result in a fast track to relegation.

The Hornets found a more than adequate replacement on the left wing in Roberto Pereyra as the Argentina international has bagged three goals. An underrated summer acquisition in bringing keeper Ben Foster back to Vicarage Road also has paid dividends — the Hornets are seeking their second four-match winning streak in Premier League play in club history and first 4-0-0 start at any level since 1988-89 in Division Two.

The Hornets continued their bright play Wednesday, advancing to the third round of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 victory at Championship side Reading. Isaac Success and 18-year-old Domingos Quina scored on either side of halftime for Watford, who sport enough depth they overturned their entire starting XI from last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace for the cup tie.

“The atmosphere in the dressing room is incredible, we’re all prepared for the next challenge,” Success told Watford’s official YouTube channel after scoring his first goal since October 2016. “I’m happy for the team, it was a good win for us. It will make us concentrate more, and we will be ready for Sunday’s game.”

Nathaniel Chalobah and Stefano Okaka made their season debuts after recovering from injury, with Chalobah the more likely of the two to be on the bench for this match. Team selection has become a pleasant headache for Gracia as players are competing for spots throughout the side.

“It is a difficult situation for me,” he said. “I try to choose the best options for the next game and I know my decisions are not fair with some players, but I can only take 18. I would take more players if I could, but it is not possible.”

Watford have yet to beat Tottenham in the Premier League era, claiming three draws in 12 overall matches. All three draws, however, have come at Vicarage Road, including last term’s 1-1 stalemate. The Hornets were aided by Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez being sent off in the 52nd minute.

The teams will also face off in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Sept. 24, but Spurs have asked it be moved to Stadium MK – 80 kilometres from White Hart Lane. Their new stadium is still under construction and Wembley is hosting the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin heavyweight boxing fight two days prior and is unavailable.

The EFL board which oversees the cup will review the request next Friday.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Spurs are solid 6/10 favourites to continue their perfect start, and Watford are 9/2 underdogs to pull off a surprise and continue theirs. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 3/1.

Oddsmakers are liking a Spurs victory over 2.5 goals as those odds lead the pack at 27/20. A 1-0 or 2-0 Lilywhites win returns on 16/5 odds, while a 0-0 or 1-0 draw are slightly longer at 21/5. For those thinking Watford can get their first Premier League era win over Spurs, it’s 15/2 odds on over 2.5 goals and 11/1 on under.

For first goal-scorers, Kane leads the line at 12/5, followed by Fernando Llorente (4/1), Christian Eriksen (13/2) and Dele Alli (7/1). Moura is joint-fifth with Erik Lamela at 15/2, just ahead of top Watford option Troy Deeney (17/2).

Kane has 7/10 odds to run his goal-scoring streak to three matches, while Moura is further back at 23/10. Llorente is 13/10 to find the back of the net, and at 21/10, Eriksen edges out Alli (11/5). Deeney is the top option for the Hornets at 13/5, with Pereyra checking in with 7/2 odds. Gerard Deloufeu is also sporting 7/2 odds to score, which is intriguing since he has yet to play a single minute.

PREDICTION

This is a step up in class for Watford after three wins to start the season turned everyone’s head. Gracia’s 4-2-2-2 set-up has given his wingers room to roam on the flank, with Pereyra taking full advantage of the opportunity offered to him with Richarlison’s departure.

The Hornets have shown they have the potential to be a mid-table team with the victories over Burnley and Palace, now they can show whether they will be a team with potential to make a run at something bigger.

Tottenham have looked the part of a well-oiled machine, though the listless stretches of play that came in their wins over Newcastle and Fulham again were evident against Manchester United before breaking them down early in the second half and taking advantage of a back line bereft of confidence.

This will be an intriguing challenge since Watford’s back four have conceded just twice in the three league wins while playing all 270 minutes together. Spurs are always going to be the more likely of the two teams to leave it late for all three points, but the hedge here is Watford plays over their heads and grab a point.

Predicted final score: Watford 1, Tottenham Hotspur 1.

Other Match Day 4 previews:

Leicester City (2-0-1) vs. Liverpool (3-0-0)
Chelsea (3-0-0) vs. Bournemouth (2-1-0)
West Ham United (0-0-3) vs. Wolverhampton (0-2-1)
Manchester City (2-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-1-2)