The final action of the 18th round of fixtures takes us to the South Coast as Southampton play host to Tottenham at St Mary’s. This fixture once again has the interesting sub plot of former Southampton personnel coming back to face their former club.
That’s because in addition to Mauricio Pochettino returning to his former paymasters there is also Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama returning to their former club and looking to get one over the side that bought them over to English soil.
But for Tottenham to come away with all three points is not going to be easy as this Saints outfit is one that is proving difficult to break down. Claude Puel’s side have only conceded 16 goals so far this season, a record only bettered by league leaders Chelsea and tonight’s opponents Tottenham.
The Saints have come in for some criticism at the other end of the pitch as they perhaps have not found the net as much as they would have liked to. But there were no such issues last weekend when they brushed past Bournemouth with a 3-1 win at The Vitality Stadium.
Long term absentee Jay Rodriguez bagged a brace in that victory and it was a double that probably points to the former England international staying on the South Coast for the rest of the season. That will be to the disappointment to the likes of West Brom and Hull who were looking to acquire his services on loan next month.
Their opponents Tottenham come here in 5th and with the pressure heaped on them as all their nearest title rivals on Boxing Day earned three points. Perhaps title rivals is now the wrong turn of phrase what with Chelsea demolishing all that is put in front of them.
Spurs will require a win not just to keep the pressure on Arsenal but to also keep the distance between themselves and Manchester United. With Jose Mourinho’s men now finally hitting their stride, the North London outfit are going to have to make sure they keep winning also.
And they did exactly that last Sunday when they eventually disposed of Burnley with a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane. They didn’t particularly make life easy for themselves when Ashley Barnes put the visitors ahead but a quick fire repy from Dele Alli and a second half winner from Danny Rose made sure that Christmas wasn’t ruined for all connected with the club.
Once again Tottenham made countless chances but were quilty of being wasteful. They seem to be making life harder for themselves and were it against tougher opposition then they would have been punished, then again you could say that is exactly what happened when they traveled to Old Trafford the week before.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are still incredibly hard to break down as just the 12 goals they have conceded this season will attest but when you compare their goals scored to the quartet of clubs above them it becomes apparent that they need to be more clinical from this point forward.
And Tonight will prove a real challenge as Southampton won’t be giving out any late Christmas gifts. If Tottenham can find that clinical edge then they will go on and win this but that will be the biggest variable for me and one I think that they might not be able to deliver on.
Unfortunately for Tottenham I think this may well be a frustrating return for Mauricio Pochettino as his side have to make do with a draw. A point that is probably better for the home side than it is the away one but I think this one will be honours even.