OPPONENTS Aston Villa at Villa Park
COMPETITION Premier League 
DATE Sunday 16th February 2020
PREVIEW The winter break has only been ten days for Spurs, but it feels like a lifetime.  With the games recommencing in the middle of Storm Dennis, the winter break has been extended for some by Storm Ciara, with some doubts over games this weekend.  Hppefully, any lingering doubts over Tottenham's chances will be blown away.

Villa are struggling to find their form in their return to the top flight, with goal-scoring an issue.  Big moneys inging Wesely, who they hoped would provide the bulk of their goals picked up an injury that has ruled him out for the season, so they have drafted in Samatta from Tanzania via Belgium, with his height and power his twin assets.  Of the team before his arrival, nobody had hit double figures, with Grealish on nine and Hourihane seven and El Ghazi six.  Losing to Bournemouth in their last game left them hovering just above the drop zone and although they have enough winnable games left to play, they also face five of the current top six plus Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United, so it could be a nervy run-in, with Southampton and West Ham (their final fixture and a possible relegation decider) also left to visit before the end of the season, with both still needing points.

The main threat will come from Grealish.  A player Spurs made a half-hearted attempt to sign has thrived among his Villa team-mates this season and has an array of passing to match his strength on the ball (although he will go down easy if touched).  I don't suppose Jose will go man-for-man on him, but  the need to deny him time on the ball will be imperative.  The problem for him now, is who does he look for when he has the ball ?  Wesley was a target and Samatta might be the straight replacement, but without fellow terror in midfield - John McGinn, out injured - there are fewer good options available to him.  El Ghazi and Hourihane score a few, as does Trezeguet, but not regularly enough for Grealish to be certain of an end result.  Bringing in former Swansea front man Borja Baston is an attempt to beef up the forward line, but he will need to hit the ground running.

Villa have built a stronger back line, with Tyrone Mings the main man, who wins almost everything in the air and throws his body on the line when needed partnering another giant - Bjorn Engels - in the middle of the back four.  Kouteny Hause came from Wolves and adds height in the centre of defence is needed, while Matt Targett was at Southampton and didn't pull up trees there, but is disciplined in his defending, although he likes to roam forward.  On the other side, Neil Taylor or Ahmed El Mohamady play more like wing-backs, but neither has the blistering pace of their younger years.

Behind the back line, Dean Smith has brought in Pepe Reina to add experience to a position where injury has robbed him of his first choice number one - Tom Heaton.  A fine keeper when at Liverpool, Reina has enjoyed a renaissance at Napoli, but he is now 37 and while keepers can go on longer than outfield players, his reactions will have dimmed a little and it will be about his decision making, with the Premier League being a faster moving game than Serie A.

Dean Smith has proved himself a very astute manager.  Having built a good reputation at Walsall and Brentford, he has shown that he is able to produce teams that can do a job in the Premier League, but with limited finance and the step up from the Championship being a big one, the quality in the side has met it's match across this season.  Beating teams around them in the table might be enough to survive, but aside from that only a 2-2 draw with Manchester United stands out as a result they might not have expected.

They will come out of the blocks quickly and try to blitz Spurs, so a strong start is what we need to counter this.  The approach they take might leave space for us to play in, but Smith will probably leave a midfielder back to try to contend with a breakaway.  The addition of Bergwijn to the Spurs ranks adds another aspect to our attacking play that poses problems for opponents.  He showed against Manchester City that he is technically very good and strong on the ball, so combined with the pace of Son and Lucas, the passing of Lo Celso and the movement off the ball by Dele, I hope there will be enough to give Villa a tough afternoon.

With the pressing need for points, expect Villa to press, but if we can get good movement and quick passing with a high tempo, it might be that Spurs can find a way to return South with three points.

PREDICTION Aston Villa    1        Tottenham Hotspur    2
Spurs go into the match at Villa Park missing Harry Kane (hamstring), Moussa Sissoko (knee) and Juan Foyth (groin).  Ben Davies' return to fitness has come at a good time and Giovani Lo Celso should be fit enough to start, but fellow countryman Erik Lamela (hip) is a doubt for the match on Sunday.

The home side will be without Wesley (knee), Tom Heaton (knee), John McGinn (ankle) and Keinan Davis (hamstring), but Danny Drinkwater is expected to be fit after having a tight calf before the winter break and Ezri Konsa should have overcome his thigh injury.


Sky Sports Premier League - live coverage
Sky Sports   (Highlights)  Sunday 22.30 & 23.30; Monday 01.00, 02.30, 09.00, 12.00 & 15.00
Match of the Day 2  (Highlights)  Sunday 22.30

For coverage in all parts of the world, check here and here.

Radio :  
BBC LONDON 94.9FM (London area only), Digital Radio (London area only) &  Sky Channel 0152  (live coverage)
Commentary may be found on
>   BBC Radio Five Live (live coverage)  606/939 MW
TalkSport (DAB or 2nd89 MW)
Absolute Radio  (1215 AM/MW)

Internet :
The THFC Official website   Live webcast  - subscribers only
BBC London -  Live commentaries listed down the page.
TalkSport (DAB or 1089 MW)

Premier League Kick off 14:00
Aston Villa  2 (1)  
Tottenham Hotspur  3 (2)

Alderweireld (o.g.) 08m 14s
Engels 52m 58s


Alderweireld 26m 35s
Son 45+01m 11s
Son 90+3m 34s

Crowd :   41,874 Weather :  Windy, wet to start and brighter later
Referee : Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire) Assistant Referees :  Mr. Daniel Cook; Mr. Stuart Burt
Fourth Official :  Anthony Taylor  
Video Assistant Referee :  Jonathan Moss Video Assistant Referee Assistant :  Simon Long
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Holte end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 10 minutes.
Guilbert (foul on Bergwijn)  86 
Nakamba  (foul on Bergwijn)  90+2





Aston Villa : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
29  Pep REINA

30  Courtney HAUSE
22  Bjorn ENGELS 
15  Ezri KNOSA

  Danny DRINKWATER  (11  Marvelous NAKAMBA  60     )
  Douglas LUIZ
24  Frederic GUILBERT     

21  Anwar El GHAZI  (17  Mahmoud TREZEGUET  70)
20  Mbwana SAMATTA  (19  Borja BASTON  83)

Unused subs: 
25  Orjan NYLAND
  3  Neil TAYLOR


  1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  4  Toby ALDERWEIRELD  (o.g) 
  6  Davinson SANCHEZ
24  Serge AURIER

  8  Harry WINKS
Eric DIER  (18  Giovani LO CELSO  60)

20  DELE Alli (30  Gedson FERNANDES  83)
  Steven BERGWIJN  (
  5  Jan VERTONGHEN  90+6)
27  Lucas MOURA

  Heung-Min SON   

Unused subs: 
39  Japhet TANGANGA
28  Tanguy NDOMBELE
  Oliver SKIPP

Manager :  Dean Smith Manager :  Jose Mourinho
Sponsor :   W88 Shirt sponsor :  AIA
Kit Supplier :  Kappa Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report

A game where central defenders took the limelight (not always for the right reason) saw Heung-Min Son pop up in the final minute of added time to score a winner to give Spurs a 3-2 win at Villa Park against a spirited Aston Villa side.

Villa had to make a change after Tyrone Mings went down with tonsillitis, replacing him with Bjorn Engels at the back, while Spurs welcomed back Ben Davies (taking Japhet Tanganga's place) and Dier came in for Ndombele to play with Harry Winks in the defensive midfield positions.

Despite Storm Dennis blowing a gale and depositing a huge amount of rain around the ground, the fixture went ahead.  With Villa’s first attack, the ball was nicked away and Son looked to take on the home defence, but Konsa put in a robust challenge on him, leaving him needing treatment in the first minute. When Villa went forward again, with Aurier having given the ball away, the defender pulled Grealish down, with the ball far away on the other wing, leaving Spurs to face a free-kick 25 yards out, just to the left of centre. For us, it was lucky that El Ghazi took it and put it over the bar. Aurier took Grealish out with a heavy tackle, accompanied by a scream, when the Villa man kicked Serge’s foot. The desire to close players down was leading to a succession of free-kicks, but there was little quality coming from them.

Villa started a move in their own area, when Reina played it to the right wing where El Ghazi took the ball past Davies and played the ball into the near post. It took a touch to slow its flight, making Lloris come and then go back, forcing Alderweireld to get there in front of Samatta, but he only succeeded in poking the ball into his own net with Hugo static. It was poor decision making by Lloris, who should have taken charge of the situation.

Villa were encouraged by the goal and Grealish came in from the left to curl a shot just wide of the far angle of post and bar and then Sanchez made a good tackle on El Ghazi just outside the six yard box. Tottenham were finding it hard to string anything together and the ball kept ending up with a claret shirt, but when El Ghazi gave the ball away, Lucas Moura was through, taking it to his left and then laying it back for Dele. As the midfielder tried to place the ball to the far side of the goal, a defender got a block in. Moura then found some space in front of the Villa defence to take Winks’ pass, but his shot went wide.

In the 18th minute, Villa should have been 2-0 ahead, when they played the ball out from the keeper, up the left to Grealish, who ran away from Toby, then laid it across to Luiz, who had the whole goal to aim at, but Ben Davies made a fantastic block to divert it away for a corner. From it, there was a huge scramble in front of goal with Toby blocking a shot from Luiz, but play went on and Tottenham broke away with Bergwijn on the right. He played an early ball into the box and found Dele, but it was a little behind him and he was unable to direct his diving header on target.  Samatta went close with a near post header, when he got across Sanchez to meet Luiz’s cross, as Spurs were second to every ball. When Aurier gave the ball away again, Grealish went away from him into the box and squared for Samatta, but it was hacked away to safety. The defence was getting strung out and Grealish was finding space to operate in. Tottenham’s long balls forward  were not getting much joy and when they kept the ball on the floor, Bergwijn played the ball inside Targett, Aurier got there, but the defender slid in to concede a corner. It was played in to the near post, where the ball hit Dier and fell for Toby to turn on it and smash a shot in high at Reina’s near post, with the keeper slow to react. It was a fine finish and cancelled out the one he put in at the other end !

Heung-Min Son looked a bit out of sorts, maybe from the first minute challenge on him, but he was giving the ball away more than he usually did and looked sluggish. When Villa broke down their left, Aurier was often exposed and a couple of corners for the home team proved troublesome for Lloris, who couldn’t judge the flight of the ball and being faced by four big Villa players coming in. The last one, Hugo got a slap to and Spurs broke with Son sending Lucas away on the left, but he tried to go alone and was blocked out, with three white shirts in the box waiting for a ball across.  With 35 minutes on the clock, Son turned the ball around the corner on our right wing, sending Dele away and into the box, but from a tight angle, he tried to bend it in with the outside of his boot, getting it all wrong and the ball going well wide. Lloris had to be alert when El Ghazi struck a 25-yard shot and awkwardly beat the effort away via a hand and his face. Villa fans were irate when El Ghazi played the ball into the box and Sanchez turned away from it, with the crowd baying for a penalty. Dele got the ball from Winks, who took it off Drinkwater, but he ran into three players, when he should have laid it off. Then Bergwijn broke with Son up with him, but he tried to take on Guilbert, who blocked him off.

The Villa tactic of Grealish and Targett on their left was less effective when Lucas got back to even up the numbers and that looked to be the way to competently deal with it. It might have cut back our ability to break away, but with Bergwijn in the side, he has pace to threaten in the opposition half. Bergwijn and Davies linked well on the left and the Welshman set up Dele, who tried to place his shot and again it was blocked by Konsa. The ball fell for Bergwijn and he drove it in on goal, with it being blocked and VAR looked at it for some time before deciding it wasn’t a handball. Play had gone on for some time until being it stopped when Spurs had a 30 yard free-kick that was worked left to Bergwijn, laying it back to Winks, who bent it just over the bar.

The new signing used his pace to outstrip the Villa defence and Engels got back at him to slide tackle him. After some time, the VAR review awarded Spurs a penalty. Sonny was the one to take it and his stuttering run saw him drag it to the keeper’s right where Reina had dived, then reacted to try and get the loose ball. Son was alert to the situation and got there to poke it under the keeper and in for a goal, which he should have got from the spot. It was a poorly struck penalty and allowed the keeper to get to it, but his reaction made up for his mistake.

A Villa free-kick early in the second half for a foul on Grealish was swung in, but cleared for Winks to touch it on to Bergwijn. Drinkwater was weak as he was shrugged off the ball and Steven was away. Bearing down on goal, he was tracked by Guilbert, who had to concede a corner. Nothing came from it and when Son broke on the right, he dwelt on it, rather than playing it across and got crowded out. The onus was on Villa to get goals and that should have left space for Tottenham to exploit. The next chance fell to El Ghazi, who shot straight at Lloris after being set up by Samatta.  Grealish had dropped deeper in later stages of the first half and at the start of the second, he came inside to try and influence play.

As it was, a Grealish corner wasn’t attacked by Spurs and Engels out-jumped Toby to head past Hugo on his line. Poor defending of a set-piece had allowed Villa to level when it looked like Tottenham might have got the next goal in the game which gave the impetus to the home side. No Spurs player was attacking the ball at the corner and it allowed Engels a free run at the ball. Tottenham went up the other end and won a corner, which came out to Winks and he swung a cross in to the far post, where Dele headed it back towards Dier, but Luiz got there first. It was getting a bit end-to-end, with moves breaking down and teams breaking away. A neat pass almost put Son through, but he was tackled and then Hause lost out to Moura, with the ball going to Bergwijn, who put in a low shot that Reina was right behind.

Eric Dier made way for Giovani Lo Celso, as Spurs sought to be more offensive, but Villa had taken off Drinkwater with Nakamba coming on to shore up their midfield. On the hour, Moura played the ball inside to Son, who nutmegged Hause and hit a shot that was too close to Reina. Moura went up to head a lofted pass by Winks as Spurs played the ball out from the back, but the ball dropped for Aurier to pick out a pass to Son in the left channel, but again, he held the ball too long and from it, Grealish was played up on the left wing, leaving Toby to block it for another corner. Engels won it and El Ghazi went for it, but his header was soft and Lloris claimed the ball, with the Villa man needing attention for a bash in the face as he went for it.

From his floating infield, Grealish was spreading the play and Spurs were getting pulled across and forced into conceding corners, which we have been suspect in defending. It wasn’t a great tactic, but Grealish was proving hard to pick up when he moved in off the left. Spurs were finding space on our right and Bergwijn played in Aurier, whose cross was blocked but the Dutchman ran onto it and Nakamba threw himself in front of the ball to take it over for a corner. Son had a shot but hit a heap of players on the floor in front of him, but a break when Toby cut out a Villa pass leading to Moura running away with it. A deflection took the ball past Konsa and Dele was through on Reina. He dallied in taking the shot leading to Konsa getting back to get a leg to the ball as Alli tried to flick it past the keeper. Spurs were passing up chances to regain the lead and when they were giving away set-pieces, they were playing a dangerous game.

As the last quarter of an hour was reached, Villa were playing in the Spurs half, with Sanchez intercepting a square ball across the penalty area by Grealish that could have spelled danger. Samatta took the ball away from Alderweireld when it was played up to him, then finding Trezeguet on the far side. The substitute’s shot was blocked for another corner that Lloris got a good punch to. The next attack saw Grealish put a ball over from the right looking for Trezeguet, but Aurier got across to take the ball away from him.

Gedson was given the last eight minutes in place of Dele and Baston came on for Samatta for Villa. A corner straight after the substitutions saw it reach the far post, where Moura had a free header, but put it wide from a couple of yards out. Son was then released on the left, striking from a narrow angle that saw the keeper push it wide, with the same player having a great chance when the ball was poorly cleared straight to him by Baston and his shot was kept out by Reina’s legs.

Guilbert got the first booking of the game for a late trip on Bergwijn with four minutes left and Spurs could make nothing from the resulting free-kick. With two successive late winners in home games for Villa, they were hopeful of that happening a third time, with four added minutes to be played. Entering the added minutes, Spurs worked the ball from centre to left to centre and right, with Lo Celso shooting from the edge of the box, which Reina held well.

Nakamba slid in to foul Bergwijn out on the left wing, but Villa defended it well. What they didn’t defend well was when the ball was played forward by Sanchez and Engels let the ball go under his foot as he tried to control it with the sole of his boot, allowing Son to run through on the left. He ran on in the clear, waiting for Reina to come to cover his near post and then slipped the ball wide of the keeper to net the winner. Villa had benefited from late goals to win games, but this time it went against them and for all the chances Spurs had missed, Sonny took the vital one to push Spurs into fifth place.

Tottenham had enough chances to win this game twice over but could have been two behind before they got going. It was almost a replay of the first game of the season, with Villa playing well, but lacking the quality to finish teams off, which has been the story of their season. For everything that had gone before, at that stage of the game Engels should have been looking at clearing his lines, rather than being too clever. It has plunged Villa into peril with the number of remaining games running down.  They weren't the worst team we have played this season, but whether it is naivety or lack of stamina, they tired visibly going into the last 15 minutes of the match.

Too often, indecision led to Tottenham moves breaking down. While Aurier was the full back who was pushing on, his passes too often were picked off too easily, but once they had worked out how to play Grealish, he was forced inside, where it was a little more crowded and he didn't have the opportunity to put balls into the penalty area from a wider angle.  Samatta looked half-decent, playing as their target man and El Ghazi was busy but couldn't finish.  They were obviously missing their absent men - Mings and McGinn - who add a bit of added quality to the side.  There may be some hope for them, as there are worse sides in the Premier League, but their inability to stop goals flying in at their end may cost them and if relegated, they will lose players.

Reaching 40 points (albeit much later in the season than we have recently been used to) may well be enough to fend off relegation for Spurs this season and puts us one point behind Chelsea, although they have to play Manchester United tomorrow.  With Chelsea to play on Saturday in the early game, it could be a crucial game of the season.  Once more, it will not be enough to play like this against Chelsea, so I am sure Jose will have them up for it, after facing Leipzig in midweek.

Perry Digs Weed

Match facts

Villa took the lead at exactly the same time as they went 1-0 ahead at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Heung-Min Son scored his 50th and 51st Premier League goals, becoming the first Asian player to reach this mark.

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How the players did
Hugo Lloris Not one of Hugo's best performances.  Came and went for the first goal and looked uncertain from corners, with big Villa players surrounding him.  Did OK.
Serge Aurier Loose in his passing, but he did get into some good positions on the right wing.  Looked as though he was going to get booked early on in the game, but steadied to do some useful defending.
Toby Alderweireld Could easily have been shaken by putting in an own goal after 8 minutes.  Being at the birth of his son yesterday must have taken a lot out of him, but he got his head straight and scored a fine equaliser and put in a good shift. 
Davinson Sanchez Unassuming performance by Davinson, going about his business today without any great fuss.  Did well and made a very good tackle on El Ghazi to stop a goal to make it 2-1.
Ben Davies Very good game back.  Got in some good defensive headers and played the ball well from the back.
Eric Dier Solid game.  Didn't do anything outstanding, but did what he did well, breaking up play in midfield.
Harry Winks An impressive performance from Harry.  Always available to receive the ball and looked forward to set Spurs on their way.
Steven Bergwijn A good game for Bergwijn.  Looked to take people on and use his pace, which won the penalty.  Tackled back too, so is complementing Moura on the other flank.
Dele Alli A little too ineffective today.  Was making good runs to get the ball, but often his passes were under-hit or he ran into blind alleys.  Perhaps the fuss about his Coronavirus comments have got to him.
Heung-Min Son Didn't look up for it after getting hit in the first minute, perhaps with Terry's tuition.  However, he kept going and made up for a poor penalty by netting the rebound and then keeping calm to slid home the last minute winner.
Lucas Moura Hard working performance without much reward.  Fetched and carried, without creating a lot or getting chances of his own.  Unselfish showing.
Giovani Lo Celso Looked to take the ball whenever possible and probed the Villa defence.  Had a shot way off target and brought a save from Reina from another.
Gedson Fernandes Looked good in beating his man with determination and put in a lot of effort in his brief cameo.
Jan Vertonghen Came on after Son's goal to strengthen the defence, but there were only seconds left.
Paulo Gazzaniga Unused.
Japhet Tanganga Unused.
Tanguy Ndombele Unused.
Oliver Skipp Unused.


What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Norwich City 0 Liverpool 1 Saturday
Southampton 1 Burnley 2 Saturday
Arsenal 4 Newcastle United 0 Sunday
Chelsea 0 Manchester United 2 Monday
Manchester City 2 West Ham United London 0 Wednesday


League Table  2019-20
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Liverpool 26 25 1 0 61 15 76 +46
2 Manchester City 26 17 3 6 67 29 54 +38
3 Leicester City 26 15 5 6 54 26 50 +28
4 Frank Lampard's Chelsea 26 12 5 9 43 36 41 +7
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 26 11 7 8 43 34 40 +9
6 Sheffield United 26 10 9 7 28 24 39 +4
7 Manchester United 26 10 8 8 38 29 38 +9
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 26 8 12 6 35 32 36 +3
9 Everton 26 10 6 10 34 38 36 -4
10 Woolwich Wanderers 26 7 13 6 36 34 34 +2
11 Burnley 26 10 4 12 30 39 34 -9
12 South Coast Big Club 26 9 4 13 32 48 31 -16
13 Newcastle United 26 8 7 11 24 40 31 -16
14 Crystal Palace 26 7 9 10 23 32 30 -9
15 Brighton & Hove Albion 26 6 9 11 31 38 27 -7
16 AFC Bournemouth 26 7 5 14 26 40 26 -14
17 Aston Villa 26 7 4 15 34 50 25 -16
18 West Ham United London 26 6 6 14 30 45 24 -15
19 Watford 26 5 9 12 24 40 24 -16
20 Norwich City 26 4 6 16 24 48 18 -24


Position before match :  6th
Position after match :  5th
Position after the week's games :  5th


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