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Tottenham Hotspur-Wolverhampton Preview
Coming off a needed palette-cleansing victory in the Carabao Cup, Tottenham Hotspur look to begin the business of closing the distance between themselves and leaders Manchester City on Saturday when they face struggling Wolverhampton at Molineux.
Tottenham Hotspur (7-0-3) had a pair of matches to forget, first being held to a 2-2 draw at PSV Eindhoven in Champions League play that all but scuttled their hopes for advancing to the knockout round despite having three matches remaining. The hangover continued Monday at Wembley Stadium, where the Lilywhites never fully recovered from a sixth-minute goal scored by Riyad Mahrez as they fell 1-0 to the reigning champions.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino's lineup deserved some scrutiny, most notably in the form of selecting Moussa Sissoko for the left wing in Spurs' 4-2-3-1 set-up when a creative tandem of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela was there in the offering. It was Lamela, though, who was left to rue his scuffed chance during the final quarter-hour, the ball taking a slight skip on the worn Wembley pitch before he sent his shot for the upper left corner well over the bar.
The loss dropped Spurs five points behind City, but for all intents and purposes, it feels like 50 given the chasm in quality the Citizens enjoyed for a good portion of the match before Spurs desperately chased - and nearly caught - an equaliser late. While it would be easy to use playing at Wembley for a second straight season as an excuse since the re-opening of White Hart Lane has now been pushed back to January, defender Toby Alderweireld said his team cannot lament what has been.
"We never used Wembley as an excuse and we will not do that now," Alderweireld told Sky Sports. "But it has affected us. I am grateful to play at Wembley, it is a very historical place, but it is not the same feeling as White Hart Lane. There we had a special home feeling.
"But in that way, we did very well to be successful at Wembley. But I know the club is doing everything in their power to play as quickly as possible in our stadium."
That is what made Wednesday's 3-1 victory at West Ham United to reach the Carabao Cup quarterfinals so vital to getting rid of the negative vibes. Heung-Min Son had a brace on either side of halftime for his first two goals of the season, and the relief was palpable for the South Korea international as he celebrated the goal with Pochettino.
"You feel sorry when a player works hard and does not get rewarded and Sonny has been ready to work more and more to change his situation," the gaffer told The Times. "I never usually celebrate the goal but was a little worried for him."
Fernnado Llorente helped Spurs see out the match with a goal shortly after West Ham pulled within 2-1, and the spoils of the win included another London derby in the round of eight, this time against Arsenal and Pochettino's old friend and new Gunners manager Unai Emery.
As the preparations continue to eventually move back to White Hart Lane, Spurs did lock up an important piece of the side's nucleus to play there for years to come by extending Alli's contract through 2024. He joins striker Harry Kane and keeper Hugo Lloris as the only players with a wage packet of at least £100,000 per week, and it may also put to rest the rumours of Pochettino taking the Real Madrid job that opened up following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.
"He's a massive part of wanting to be at this club," Alli said of Pochettino. "The fans are amazing, the chairman, everyone, the whole club is amazing. But as players, you work with the gaffer, you want to have a good relationship with the manager and we all feel like we've got that here.
"We all love the way we work. The style of play, we all want to be a part of it. He's done a lot for me so far and hopefully he can keep helping me to improve."
After an impressive start to the season in which they lost just one of their first eight matches, new boys Wolverhampton have come back down to earth some with back-to-back losses. The Wolves (4-3-3) continue to struggle offensively - their nine goals are the fewest of any club in the top half of the table - and have gone 214 minutes without a tally following their 1-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend.
"We've got a tough week ahead in training, improving on Brighton because we need to get back to winning ways," centre back and talisman Conor Coady told the Birmingham Mail. "It's been an OK start for us, we've won a couple but we've been beat the last two games which isn't a nice feeling at all."
Coach Nuno Espirito Santo may attempt further changes for the second straight contest after finally altering his starting XI for the first time last weekend. Adama Traore, however, failed to make much of an impact as right wing back Matt Doherty had the side's two best chances at AMEX Stadium.
Coady is hoping the prime-time kickoff will give a boost to the team through their supporters as Wolves have claimed eight points through their first five home contests (2-2-1) in the top flight.
"What it does do is get you looking forward to a game under the lights," Coady told the club's official website. "There's nothing better than a game under the lights, it's brilliant, especially here at Molineux, because the crowd are electric at the best of times."
Wolves do not have any injuries of note, while Spurs continue to be without central defender Jan Vertonghen. With Eriksen and Alli playing 83 and 63 minutes, respectively, versus West Ham, Sissoko and Lamela are likely to be restored to Pochettino's first XI.
This will be the first meeting between the clubs since Wolves were last in the top flight in 2011-12. Tottenham are unbeaten in the last four matchups (2-2-0) and are 4-2-2 against them in the Premier League era. Wolverhampton's lone win in four tries against the Lilywhites at Molienux was a 1-0 victory in 2010.
Updated November 1, 2018