Match date and time: Wednesday 21st January 2015. 7:45pm GMT KO.
Competition: Capital One Cup Semi Final. 1st Leg.
Venue: White Hart Lane.
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1. Worldwide TV listings HERE.
Our biggest two games of the season so far await, with an opportunity to go to Wembley and face one of Chelsea or Liverpool to battle for a domestic trophy, we have to treat our opponent with complete respect, and not misjudge their threat to what Tottenham and the fans have been craving since 2008, some silverware. The Capital One Cup is a massive opportunity for us to bring glory back to the Lane, after going six years trophy-less, the pressure is on to get trophies back to White Hart Lane, and instead of overly focusing on getting a top four spot, I think winning trophies is what football is all about, as Danny Blanchflower famously said, ‘The Game is about Glory’, and it is a quote that is bounded around every time a trophy is even slightly possible, because of the truth to it, and how much it means to Tottenham fans, we are proud of our rich history in Cup competitions, and to add another piece of history to our collection would be most welcome. Being at home in the first leg isn’t ideal, but we are perfectly capable of finishing off the tie in the first leg, if we are able to perform to our maximum, I am sure we will be able to see off a, with respect, inferior League 1 Sheffield United. Of course this game will not be ‘easy’ to say the least, as I am sure Sheffield United will come into the tie, especially at Bramall Lane, driven to succeed and perform what can only be seen to be a miracle Cup upset, for a side that sit 7th in League One. At the Lane, I can only be confident that we will be able to come out as victors, if we can perform as we did against Newcastle in the Quarter Final, I am sure we will be in a good position heading into the second leg at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United sit 7th in League One, with their Cup form being incredible, but their League form, recently, has been average as they sit just outside the play-off places. Focusing on their League Cup run, they have been the upset kings, beating West Ham, Leyton Orient and MK Dons, while in the quarter finals beating Southampton at Bramall Lane; so it has been quite the run, and I am sure they will be very confident of continuing their Capital One Cup journey, even if the odds are stacked upon them. In their last game, they lost to MK Dons in League One, by one goal to nil, and this may give you confidence, but we have to remember that Cup games, in particular Semi-finals, can invigorate opponents of lower Leagues, and I am sure they have had one eye on these games with a chance to go to Wembley, so you can’t blame them for dropping points. If you think it is just their Home form that has helped them get to this stage of the competition, you are mistaken; early in the Capital One Cup, they got through against West Ham at Upton Park, and in the last round of the FA Cup, they thrashed QPR at Loftus Road 3-0, proving that this Sheffield United side is not one to be misjudged and underestimated. The last time we faced the Blades, was at Bramall Lane in 2007, while Sheffield United were in the Premier League, and it was the team in red and white that came out on top, winning 2-1, Hulse and Jagielka scoring for them, while Jermaine Jenas netting for Tottenham. The last time Sheffield United visited White Hart Lane, was back in 2006, where we triumphed 2-0 in the Premier League fixture, with Jermaine Jenas again finding the net, along with the artist Dimitar Berbatov getting his first Premier League goal for Tottenham.
The team news for the Blades is that James Wallace and Ben Davies (Not that one!) are expected to be out of the game, along with back up goalkeeper Ian Turner with a hamstring problem and Ryan Flynn feeling the pain in his Achilles. The good news for the team in red and white is that defender Chris Balsham is expected to return, and I am sure they will need all the defensive help they can get if Tottenham can turn up the heat enough. The offensive threat will be coming from forward Marc McNulty, who has netted 10 times already so far this season in all competitions, including big goals against Premier League sides Southampton and QPR, and he will be looking to be adding to his list of goals against teams from the top flight. Along with McNulty, Jamie Murphy is another threat up top, even though he only has 4 goals this term, he is an ever present in the Sheffield United side and on form, the Scotsman can be a menace to our defence, but I am sure we will be capable of containing the two Scotsmen.
The team news for Tottenham is that Erik Lamela (calf), Federico Fazio (illness) and Vlad Chiriches (back) remain out, along with Nacer Chadli who is dealing with the loss of his father, and is being allowed time with his family, and we all wish him the best. The good news is that captain Younes Kaboul returns after suffering from illness, and midfielder Ryan Mason is back in contention after a hamstring problem, and that is a massive boost for us in the middle of the park, and I am sure he can make a big impact for us in this game, if he is selected.
In a semi-final, I think that playing our strongest, or near strongest side is essential. Being at Home, we will be looking to finish off the tie as soon as possible, so that we can go to Bramall Lane with the pressure off, or close to it anyway! This is arguably our most important game of the season so far, and that is how we have to treat it in terms of the side we put out; we can’t have a shock start like against Burnley in the FA Cup, and will have to be completely respectful of the Sheffield United side. The crucial player for us recently, apart from the phenomenal Harry Kane, is Christian Eriksen, and it feels like I talk about him every time I write a Preview or Review, and that is because he is so fundamental in everything good that comes to us in attack, with his beautiful way of playing, but also effective way of scoring goals, and notching assists; this Sheffield United side will not be used to facing a player with so much vision and intelligence on the football pitch, and if he can get on the ball and find space inbetween the midfield and defence, he will cause all sorts of difficulties for the Sheffield defenders. The formally mentioned Harry Kane is also vital to how we will achieve victory; his power and clinical edge have been phenomenal this season, as well as his work rate and energy, and if he can continue to perform in the Capital One Cup, I am sure Wembley will be very close. Andros Townsend has been finding a little bit of form recently, and his pace, directness and recently, his crossing of the ball and has been notching assists too, with 6 assists so far this season; if he can continue to get minutes, and improve his decision making I am sure he will be able to find that form he was showing regularly at the start of last season.
It is a massive opportunity to put us one step closer to Wembley, and if we can put in a good display and score some goals, while keeping tight at the back, we will go to Bramall Lane in high spirits and full of confidence. But first, we have to do the job at the Lane; and it is live on Sky Sports 1, but I will be providing match updates, goal updates, photos and much more live from the Lane, follow @AddictedToSpurs for it all. Lets hope we can get a good result going into the second leg! COYS!!
My predicted/preferred side to face Sheffield United at White Hart Lane:
Walker – Dier – Vertonghen – Davies
Stambouli – Mason
Townsend – Kane – Eriksen
Mauricio Pochettino’s full press conference ahead of Sheffield United: