Tottenham Hotspur-Crystal Palace Preview
With so much still to play for on multiple fronts, Tottenham Hotspur begin a busy stretch of the schedule Sunday when they go to Selhurst Park for a London derby versus Crystal Palace.
Spurs (15-7-5) are fifth in the Premier League table at the moment, one point behind Chelsea for the final Champions League spot but also four back of second-place Manchester United. Tottenham are unbeaten in their last 14 matches (8-6-0) in all competitions since a 4-1 loss to champions-elect Manchester City, but they've also done themselves no favours by needing replays to advance in the last two rounds of the FA Cup.
The second such occurrence happened last Sunday, when a stoppage-time goal by Steven Davies pegged back Spurs into a 2-2 draw against Rochdale that now requires a replay at Wembley on Wednesday for a spot in the quarterfinals. Harry Kane's rich goal-scoring vein continued with what appeared to be the match-winner from the spot on 88 minutes before the League One side grabbed a last-gasp equaliser.
Despite needing another match, there is still optimism coursing through Spurs as they are eager to get on with their second-leg round of 16 Champions League tie at home against Juventus on March 7, after scrambling to a 2-2 draw in Turin.
"There is still everything to play for in the Champions League and getting seven points from games against United, Liverpool and Arsenal was a great achievement and gives us a lot of confidence going forward," Christian Eriksen told Spurs' official website. "I don't know what it is about this time of year but it's probably all about how we train - we work hard, especially in pre-season and we really pick up this time of year.
"All I know is the team feels very confident and we're going in the right direction."
Lucas Moura, who made his first start for Spurs in last week's draw at Rochdale and scored Spurs' first goal, could be in line for his Premier League debut after making a cameo at the end of the draw at Juventus.
Kane, who has 34 goals in 35 matches across all competitions this season, has found the back of the net in each of his last four games and has 16 in his last 13 matches. He has just two goals in nine career matches against Crystal Palace, though, failing to score in the last four meetings between the sides.
Kane is tied with Alan Gilzean for eighth on Tottenham's all-time scoring list with 133 goals, and his next one will tie him with Len Duquemin for seventh.
Crystal Palace (6-9-12) are still in the throes of the relegation scrap as they enter the matchday 15th on 27 points.
Roy Hodgson's team open a brutal three-match gauntlet with this contest as they also host Manchester United next weekend before traveling to Chelsea. The Eagles are winless in their last four (0-2-2) in league play after a 3-1 loss at Everton on Feb. 10, in which it all went pear-shaped in a five-minute span of the second half while yielding a pair of goals.
Luka Milivojevic cashed in a late penalty for Palace, but he rued his team's lack of fight after falling behind.
"In the last few games in the second half we have had the better half but (against Everton) in the first five minutes we have conceded two very poor goals," Milivojevic told Palace's official website. "After that it was hard to come back in the game, but we had one good chance from Christian (Benteke) and if he scores, 2-1, and that happened before 60 minutes, maybe we could change the game but after that it was very hard to come back."
Alexander Sorloth did enough in his Palace debut to likely retain his spot in Hodgson's starting XI, though the goals from the forward position continue to be a concern as Wilfried Zaha remains sidelined with a knee injury and Benteke continues to struggle with his form.
Spurs are seeking the double after a 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Wembley on Nov. 5, as Heung-Min Son scored in the 64th minute while third-choice goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga made three saves for the clean sheet as both Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm were out through injury.
Spurs have won three on the trot against Palace, all by 1-0 scorelines, and have not conceded to them in 315 minutes since Martin Kelly's goal in stoppage time of the first half propelled the Eagles to a fifth-round FA Cup win in 2016. The Lilywhites have taken points in six of their last eight matches at Selhurst Park (5-1-2).
Updated February 23, 2018