Tottenham is on somewhat of a low note as the World Cup break approaches, with Antonio Conte’s team having lost four of their past seven Premier League games and being eliminated by Nottingham Forest from the Carabao Cup.
Leeds appears to have overcome a recent crisis after ending an eight-match losing streak spectacularly by defeating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield and then overcoming Bournemouth last weekend.
The chaotic character of Leeds manager Jesse Marsch’s most recent 4-3 victory over the Cherries, though, reveals that there is still much to be done before the Whites can be considered entirely fixed.
Leeds had an early 1-0 lead before falling down 3-1, and Bournemouth had a few great chances to make it four or five but didn’t take advantage of them.
Marsch might have to question if it is wise to play so openly against a Tottenham team that hasn’t been at its best lately but still poses a serious threat on offense and won’t be as generous in defense.
Conte appears to have chosen a strategy of playing a defensive, low-energy, low-risk manner in the first half in an effort to save his players for a second-half barrage. Tottenham have appeared sluggish in recent weeks.
It is a strategy that has frequently failed, allowing Spurs’ opponents to score first in each of their last seven games.
Manchester United, Newcastle, and Liverpool—as well as Nottingham Forest in the lesser-important Carabao Cup—have all performed well enough to hold one for a victory.
But Tottenham managed to change the course of the game against Bournemouth, coming back from being down 2-0 to win 3-2, and they also overcame a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 in Marseille in Europe.
The Portuguese team scored the opening goal in a 1-1 draw against Sporting, and VAR prevented them from also securing a late winner.
This Saturday, if Tottenham are sluggish early on, they could easily concede once again before they get going. Marsch’s all-out offensive mentality implies that pattern may continue.
Tottenham should be able to do enough to win, even if they suffer an early setback, due to Leeds’ porous defense and the return to fitness of Richarlison and Kulusevski.
Leeds won their first away game of the year last week at Anfield after losing their previous four league away games at Leicester (2-1), Crystal Palace (2-1), Brentford (5-2), and Brighton (1-0).
Although Marsch’s club ranks in the top half of teams in the Premier League in terms of goals scored, only six teams have given up more goals than them this season.
Tottenham’s first-half and second-half records show how slowly they start games.
Only five of Spurs’ 14 games this season have seen them win the first 45 minutes, and in four of those games, they have lost and given up more goals than they have scored.
But in nine of their 14 games, Conte’s team has won the second half, scoring an incredible 18 goals in that period and giving up just eight goals after the break.
Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski, two attacking options that Conte was able to insert during the second half of Tottenham’s midweek Carabao Cup loss, should be ready to start this weekend.
With a shattered eye socket, fellow forward Heung-Min Son will once again be sidelined, and center-back Cristian Romero is out with a muscular injury.
A lot of Marsch’s players won’t be traveling to north London.
Both forwards Joe Gelhardt and Luis Sinisterra are anticipated to sit out, and striker Patrick Bamford is a serious question mark with a groin injury.