Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v. Aston Villa

Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images
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  • Spurs finished 4th in PL last season
  • Villa promoted via EFL Championship playoffs
  • THFC outscored AVFC 31-6 in last 14 meetings (12W-1D-1L)

The first episode of the new series Are Tottenham Hotspur Title Contenders, Or Just The Best Of The Rest? is set to debut on Saturday when Mauricio Pochettino‘s side hosts newly promoted Aston Villa in either side’s 2019-20 Premier League opener on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

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Tottenham made a trio of signings (midfielders Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, and winger/defender Ryan Sessegnon) during the recently completed summer transfer window — their first moves after two straight windows without signing a player — and appear to have addressed inarguably the first-team squad’s biggest weakness: central midfield. Spurs are unquestionably better now than when they finished last season as runners-up in the UEFA Champions League, but there are still serious doubts over how much, if at all, they have closed the gap between themselves and runaway title combatants Manchester City and Liverpool.

[ SEASON PREVIEWS: Tottenham Hotspur | Aston Villa ]

Villa, meanwhile, return to the PL with one very simple objective: still be in the top flight next season. Spending upwards of $160 million on a dozen players was a strong signal of intent, but now manager Dean Smith must fit those new pieces together to form a functional unit capable of taking points off sides like Spurs. The only significant loss of Villa’s summer was their inability to retain Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, who scored 26 goals in the EFL Championship last season.


Injuries/suspensions

Tottenham: OUT – Son Heung-min (suspension), Dele Alli (hamstring), Juan Foyth (ankle)

Aston Villa: PROBABLE: Ezri Konsa (thigh), Jed Steer (heel)


Projected lineups

Tottenham: Lloris – Walker-Peters, Aldeweireld, Vertonghen, Rose – Winks, Ndombele – Lucas, Eriksen, Lamela – Kane

Aston Villa: Heaton – Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett – Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish – El Ghazi, Wesley, Jota


What they’re saying

Pochettino, on this season’s expectations: “A good season for us? My personal feeling is that starting my sixth season I need to lift a trophy — Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League or Champions League. It’s like my dog — he’s growing up, he’s just not quite mature enough. I don’t want to put pressure on the team or the club. But, if you ask me personally, this season is not about finishing in the top-four to be successful. For me, it is about winning some title.”

Smith, on a busy summer of signings: “With nine players released and six players finishing their loans, it meant that 15 players had to be replaced. We’ve done very well with the recruitment and we’re very fortunate to have the owners we have with the money they put forward. There is always going to be comparisons with other clubs (Fulham) but we can only concentrate on ourselves.”


Prediction

While Spurs might experience a few growing pains as key players get comfortable in a new team, Villa will be faced with far more of those early-season struggles. Even if they’re at only 80 percent of their best, Spurs have the quality to drown Villa with constant pressure and a handful of ruthless goal-getters to finish their chances. Spurs 2-0 Villa.