A London derby will kick-start a busy day of Premier League action today (Sunday).
Meetings between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United have served up some terrific entertainment in recent years, and both will head into the weekend’s meeting at White Hart Lane eyeing the three points.
A late winner by defender Eric Dier on his Premier League debut earned Spurs maximum points when these teams met at Upton Park on the opening day of the season, and that result ended an unusual run of West Ham dominance in the fixture. The Hammers had won just one in 12 against Tottenham in league play heading into the 2014-15 season, but beat their London rivals in all three meetings last term, knocking the Lilywhites out of the League Cup and notching up five unanswered goals in their first ever league double over Spurs.
However, this season’s Tottenham have proved a very different proposition to last season’s disjointed side. Through to the final of the League Cup and just three points outside of the top four following recent high-profile wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, the new-look Spurs have even impressed Hammers boss Sam Allardyce.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been surprised, but I am impressed,” Allardyce said, singling out Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for special praise.
“He’s managed to find out as quickly as possible what his players are capable of. He’s rotated his team on a regular basis and he has a very talented squad to work with.
“As a result he’s managed to keep his players happy which is very important. They’ve performed for him exceptionally well and he’s done an excellent job.”
Spurs lost last time out in the Premier League, conceding a late Mario Balotelli goal to succumb 3-2 to Liverpool in a thrilling clash at Anfield. That was only Tottenham’s second defeat in their last 11 league matches, slowing their surge towards the Champions League qualification positions.
The Lilywhites returned to Europa League action on Thursday evening, hosting in-form Italian side Fiorentina at White Hart Lane.
Roberto Soldado scored with an expertly-taken volley early on, but the game ended 1-1 and means that Spurs will have to take a strong side to Italy in a week’s time – just four days before they are set to meet Chelsea in the League Cup final at Wembley.
“I thought we deserved more,” Pochettino said. “In the first half we created a lot of chances. It’s a bit of a shame and I’m disappointed with the score after 45 minutes because we had dominated the game. In the second half we continued working hard.
“This is football. I thought we were better than Fiorentina but this is a good thing and we now need to go to Florence and try to win the game. I’m sure it will be another open match. We need to believe in our possibility of going through to the next round and prepare for next Thursday, but first we need to focus on West Ham on Sunday.”
West Ham’s league form has dipped horribly since Christmas. Allardyce’s side have won just one of their last eight in league play and were thrashed 4-0 by West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup last weekend.
There was even more disappointing news for West Ham this week as striker Andy Carroll was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury, but Allardyce may be able to call upon fit-again Matt Jarvis, Winston Reid, James Collins and Diafra Sakho for Sunday’s game.
Tottenham have a fully fit squad to choose from going into the derby, but are expected to ring the changes after leaving Dier, Danny Rose, Ryan Mason, Erik Lamela, Moussa Dembele and star striker Harry Kane out of the starting eleven against Fiorentina.
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