Victor Wanyama will hope to benefit from Tottenham's rest-and-rotate policy ahead of FA Cup tie against Newport
Kenyan, who struck form in Liverpool game, should be a starter in fourth-round replay
Spot the odd one out. It is not hard. Manchester United, Liverpool, Newport, Arsenal. Tottenham Hotspur’s fixture list contains a roll call of the rich and famous, but with an incongruous presence.
Newport County, 11th in League Two and 79th in the pyramid, have already emulated Liverpool and bettered United in recent weeks by holding Spurs. Indeed, unlike either, they took the lead against Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who required Harry Kane’s 82nd-minute equaliser to set up Wednesday night's FA Cup replay.
The Argentine manager questioned his side’s “motivation, desire and fight” last week. Victor Wanyama, one of those to flounder in the mud of Rodney Parade - which doubles up as a rugby ground - took a different view.
“The pitch was tough to play there and also they did well. They will have a second chance so we will see what will happen,” the midfielder said.
The contrast between opponents will be considerable. “It is always tough [to adjust] but we have a very good group and I think we can do that quickly,” Wanyama said.
It is a game for the group. While Kane has started and scored in both of Tottenham’s FA Cup games so far, this ought to be an opportunity to rest and rotate.
Wanyama should be one of the beneficiaries. Tottenham illustrated their strength in depth on Sunday when their substitutes were catalysts for a comeback at Anfield.
Wanyama struck in spectacular style a minute after his introduction – “one of the best goals I have scored” – but an automatic choice last season has not started in the Premier League since August.
Wanyama talks about his Anfield goal
Since recovering from a knee injury, he has been a substitute, except in the FA Cup. “I am feeling good but it is difficult for me,” the Kenyan explained. “We will take it slowly and see because I am just back from injury. We need to take it a step at a time.”
The difficulties are in part a consequence of the competition for places. “We have a big squad with big players so every training [session] is about fighting for the position,” Wanyama said.
Eric Dier has been a constant this season, whether in defence or midfield. Mousa Dembele was at his inimitable best as United were over-run. Harry Winks, another who has been sidelined, is available again.
There is a new name to throw into the mix, albeit one who will look for a more offensive role than Wanyama: Lucas Moura, the £23 million (Dh117.5m) arrival from Paris Saint-Germain who could be granted a debut. “He is a very good player and he is a good addition for us,” Wanyama added.
Erik Lamela, who made an impact in his cameo at Anfield but has only started three games since his own lengthy lay-off, is another who play 90 minutes.
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If back-ups like Michel Vorm and Juan Foyth will probably feature, the more significant element for Tottenham’s defence is that Toby Alderweireld back in training. The Belgian has not played for three months and was below par before then. Yet in the previous two seasons, he was the outstanding centre-back in the Premier League.
Tottenham have assembled a fine defensive record without Alderweireld, but Davinson Sanchez struggled at Anfield. With Arsenal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang awaiting on Saturday, it will be intriguing if Alderweireld is rushed back.
It underlines the difference between the clubs that Newport manager Mike Flynn studied Pochettino on his Pro Licence course – he praised the Argentine for his graciousness when they eventually met – and that, while one of Newport’s defenders has a sporting pedigree in the English capital, it is because Mickey Demetriou played cricket at Lord’s a decade ago. He lost then and defeat probably beckons again.
It is three decades since Spurs exited the FA Cup to a team from the lower two divisions. While their elimination now would rank as one of the competition’s greatest shocks, Newport’s best chance to emulate the Port Vale side of 1987/88 came 11 days ago.
Updated: February 7, 2018 08:33 AM