Crystal Palace face Spurs on Sunday in the fourth round of the FA Cup and, while a string of injuries to a number of their opponents’ key players may mean the Eagles fancy their chances, their full-backs will have to be on top form if they want to progress.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men will, crucially, be without Harry Kane this weekend after the England captain suffered an ankle injury during the clash with Manchester United and his absence – combined with the unavailability of both Dele Alli and Heung-min Son – means that Fernando Llorente will likely deputise up front.
The big Spaniard has scored five goals in his last six starts for the White Hart Lane outfit and, despite his lack of mobility, he will be a tricky customer for Palace due to his aerial prowess.
Roy Hodgson must make sure his side don’t take the lumbering striker for granted after his poor showing against Fulham last weekend but if Patrick van Aanholt and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are on their game, Llorente will get no joy.
Llorente might be pretty easy to keep track of for Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins but, as he showed against Chelsea, he can get his head on the ball if the defender makes even the slightest misjudgment; trusting the aforementioned pair to win their duels every single time is a risk Hodgson cannot afford to take and so stopping the ball from getting into the box in the first place has to be a priority.
Wan-Bissaka should have no difficulties doing so – he has shown this season that he is one of the best right-backs in the league – but van Aanholt’s desperation to get forward to assist Wilfried Zaha on the left-flank may cost his side should they lose possession in an advanced area.
For all his attacking threat, the Dutch international can be exposed on the back foot and Hodgson should be programming him this week to be cautious with his forward runs.
So often this season, the dynamic duo of Zaha and Andros Townsend have been the key players for Palace in their games, but the spotlight will be on the wide defenders come Sunday.