Antonio Conte will be wanting to see his Tottenham Hotspur side build on their triumph at the weekend when they head north to face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round this evening.
It presents the final opportunity for the Italian stalwart to seal some instant silverware on his long-awaited return to England after he replaced Nuno Santo in the Spurs dugout back in November.
Indeed, the Lilywhites have suffered a trophy drought since 2008, whilst Conte picked up his last piece of glory only last season, where he led Inter Milan to their first Scudetto in over a decade.
Daniel Levy and co will be hoping he can make a similar sort of impact at Hotspur Way and a trip to the Riverside to face a Championship outfit presents the perfect opportunity to move one step closer with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
As such, it will be interesting to see what sort of side Conte will name against Boro as several of Spurs’ key stars have been ever-presence since his arrival and some could ultimately do with a rest – a place in the top four is still a target and there are tricky games on the horizon, including one against a direct rival in Manchester United.
One player who has been handed a lifeline under the 52-year-old is Harry Winks, who was once one of Mauricio Pochettino’s most trusted lieutenants in the engine room.
Under former manager Jose Mourinho and then Nuno, the England international sunk down the pecking order and as such, his involvement with Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions also dwindled.
And whilst he has looked shades of his former self with Conte at the helm, the 26-year-old maestro isn’t the sort of player that will last long-term, so it could prove to be a pretty pointless experiment to continue to play him.
“Harry has the profile of the perfect midfield player,” once claimed Pochettino (via the Evening Standard). “His characteristics are perfect. When we talk about midfielders like Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta, he’s like this type of player.”
Well, since those comments in September 2018, that just hasn’t been the case. Take this season, for instance, only two players to have started eight or more league games have averaged a worse seasonal rating than him, as per WhoScored.
Evidently a good passer of the ball (89.7% career passing accuracy), the £15.3m-rated midfielder does little else in the engine room, averaging only 0.9 tackles and 0.8 key passes per game this term, so he’s rarely having an influence at either end of the pitch.
If Rodrigo Bentancur or Oliver Skipp are fit, then he’d have no place in the starting XI anyway.
Meanwhile, this sort of encounter could be a good chance for Conte to take a look at alternatives and perhaps players who are likely to be here for the longer term, such as Alfie Devine or Harvey White, both of whom have impressed in the U23 ranks.
Therefore, the Spurs head coach must be ruthless and axe the £91k-per-week star, starting with tonight’s FA Cup clash against Boro.