Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Premier League meeting between Tottenham Hotspur
at White Hart Lane. The Lilywhites are going in search of a sixth-straight win in all competitions, knowing that the top-flight summit is still within touching distance heading into the final third of the campaign.
It has been a somewhat indifferent year so far for visiting Watford, meanwhile, but they appear to have turned a corner once more and are well on course to finishing inside the top half of the Prem table. Plenty of eyes will be on the lunchtime kickoff between the division's top-two sides, but before checking the latest in that one, let's first turn our attention to some team news from the Lane.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR XI: Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Davies; Dembele, Dier; Chadli, Eriksen, Lamela; Kane
WATFORD XI: Gomes; Nyom, Britos, Cathcart, Ake; Suarez, Watson, Capoue; Jurado, Abdi; Ighalo
Starting with the visiting side, then, and Quique Sanchez Flores
has opted to make five changes to his side from the midweek stalemate with champions Chelsea. The big news is that Troy Deeney drops to the bench, with Odion Ighalo instead being asked to lead the line of his own at the home of an in-form Spurs side. Nathan Ake is among those to return after being ineligible to feature against his former club last time out.
On top of Ake being integrated back into the first-team fold, Nyom, Britos, Suarez and Abdi are also reinstated for the short trip to North London. Paredes, Prodl, Holebas, Behrami and Deeney are the five players to make way, as Flores aims to freshen things up slightly and alternate his formation with what looks to be a 4-3-2-1 set-up, as opposed to the more familiar 4-4-2 we have become accustomed to this term.
The big news as far as Spurs are concerned is the inclusion of Nacer Chadli in the starting lineup for the first time since mid-October in the Premier League. That means Dele Alli
is deemed unfit to start after being withdrawn at half-time in the week, and he will instead take up a place among the substitutes this afternoon. It is a similar case for Son Heung-min, who also misses out on the starting XI.
Pochettino has made four changes to his side in all, including a double alteration at full-back where Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier
are given the nod to start. It is a Spurs side lacking one of the two in-form players they currently boast, but with Kane fully fit and enjoying a fine scoring streak, the Hornets' backline will have to remain compact throughout if they are to stop the Englishman in his tracks.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUBS: Vorm, Rose, Walker, Alli, Carroll, Mason, Son
WATFORD SUBS: Pantilimon, Prodl, Holebas, Behrami, Anya, Amrabat, Deeney
So plenty of rotation on show this afternoon, then, as Watford make five changes and Spurs go with four alterations from last time out. One of those is enforced as Alli is clearly still not feeling 100% after being withdrawn through dizziness at Carrow Road in midweek, but there is a welcome return to the matchday squad for Ryan Mason. Nordin Amrabat made a good impression on his full debut last week for the Hornets, yet a place on the bench - alongside Deeney - is his reward today.
Odion Ighalo leads the line for Watford at White Hart Lane this afternoon, while Nordin Amrabat and Troy Deeney provide some quality back-up from the bench. Tottenham Hotspur will be without in-form Dele Alli from the off, meanwhile, but there is a place for Harry Kane up top.
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Before taking a look at both of these sides in a little more depth, it is worth checking in on the latest from the Etihad Stadium where leaders Leicester City face off against Manchester City. Incredibly, the Foxes find themselves 3-0 up in that one with less than a quarter of the game left to play, so it is probably safe to say that they will find themselves six points clear at the summit prior to Spurs getting underway against Watford.
It is hard to gauge truly whether that is a good result for outside title-chasers Spurs. Man City were still deemed the favourites heading into this weekend's fixtures, but surely - surely! - Leicester must now be the bookies' bet to go all the way? Either way, Tottenham can now move into second place with a victory on their home patch this afternoon, and they themselves will be considered serious contenders to pick up a first ever Premier League crown. What a season this is proving to be!
It is also worth noting that Spurs can move eight points clear of fifth-place Manchester United should they pick up another win today, so a Champions League berth really is the worst-case scenario at this moment in time. That is largely thanks to a run of form that has seen them pick up five wins in a row in all competitions, taking the club into the fifth round of the FA Cup and into third place in the Premier League - not to mention a place in the latter stages of the Europa League to look forward to!
Just two defeats in their last 21 really is quite special, and Pochettino deserves plenty of praise for the way he has moulded this Spurs side into real title challengers. We have seen the Lilywhites push the traditional top-four sides in the past, but they seem far less fragile this time around. Victory at White Hart Lane today would make it four-in-a-row in the Premier League - a feat last achieved two years ago - and would be enough to lift them up to second.
Ten goals have been scored in the last three outings, too, showing that Pochettino's men also know how to turn on the style when required. That is something that can be tracked back right to the start of the campaign, in fact, as only Manchester City have found the net more times in the top flight so far in 2015-16. The loss of Alli in the starting lineup today - a player with six goals and four assists in his last 13 league outings - really could prove to be a major blow, though.
DID YOU KNOW? Tottenham Hotspur have recovered more points from losing positions that any other Premier League side so far this season (14). The performance witnessed away at Crystal Palace recently, when battling back and scoring a couple of real crackers late on, truly highlighted the character on show right throughout this group of players.
Things may be looking up for Spurs to say the least, but this really is crunch time in their season. With a Premier League trip to fellow title challengers Manchester City to come next weekend, before a meeting with North London rivals Arsenal right around the corner, we are set to find out an awful lot more about the Lilywhites' hopes of going all the way this term. Throw in an FA Cup fifth-round tie, on top of a Europa League knockout fixture with Fiorentina, and you get the impression that squad rotation really will play a crucial part in the coming weeks.
Pochettino spoke in the week about funding perhaps being an issue as the development on the new stadium goes ahead. The new home will no doubt lift Spurs up another level in terms of the club's size, but will that have a knock-on effect on the field? It may well do, making this season all the more important. If the progress of stars such as Alli and Kane is anything to go by, however, then the Lilywhites may already be set for the years ahead anyway - regardless of transfer spend.
Mauricio Pochettino has moulded his Tottenham Hotspur side into real title challengers this season, bringing a youthful feel to a squad that could find itself in second place come 5pm this evening. Opposite number Quique Sanchez Flores has also produced a wonderful job during his short time at Watford, meanwhile, taking the club up to ninth place and well on course for a top-half finish upon their return to the top flight.
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It says an awful lot about Watford's season to date that the threat of relegation has never really been discussed. Twelve points stands between themselves and the bottom three, with just three wins between now and the end of the season likely to be enough to keep them afloat. Instead, the focus has now switched towards finishing in the top half, which would mark a truly special return to this level after their recent absence.
On the face of it, the club's form has been indifferent over the past month or so - DLLWLLWWD - yet still the Hornets remain well on track to ticking off each of the targets set last summer. Survival is surely now guaranteed, while a potential FA Cup run is also on the cards. A late Ighalo winner against Nottingham Forest in a rather bland match last weekend has set up a meeting with another Championship side in Leeds United, meaning that the quarter-finals of the competition is now well in reach.
Just five points from the last 21 on offer in the Premier League is hardly the greatest run of form, though, yet a goalless draw with Chelsea in midweek was a solid enough outcome and could provide the spark needed to push on once more. Today's match represents another tough test, of course, but following this clash Watford face two sides below them in Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.
Breaking down that league form a little further, Watford will be eager to make it two wins from their last eight at a notoriously tough ground to visit. Goalscoring has been an issue of late, having failed to find the net in three of their last four outings - perhaps explaining why Flores has opted to omit Deeney and instead go with just the one forward instead.
They may have failed to score against Chelsea last time out, too, but at least Watford kept the opposition out - the first time they have done so in their last seven games. Now the Hornets must focus on sharing the workload somewhat, as Deeney and Ighalo have been accountable for 20 of the 27 goals scored so far this term. That may be easier said than done this afternoon, of course, against a Spurs side who will no doubt be looking to attack right from the off themselves.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Tottenham Hotspur have won five successive games against Watford at White Hart Lane, while the Hornets are winless in seven league games against their London rivals overall. The last time the Lilywhites came out second best in this fixture was in 1987, when suffering a 1-0 defeat at Vicarage Road.
There is exactly 10 minutes to go until kickoff in North London now, so let's check out the pre-match thoughts from both camps heading into this Premier League showdown.
Mauricio Pochettino: "You can spend a lot of money and create a big team and win everything. But sometimes you can maybe not spend too much money and buy cleverly and by mixing the pieces you can build a big team too. If you get success, you are shown to be right. If not, the people kill you."
Quique Sanchez Flores: "We enjoy every time we go to play against big teams in amazing stadiums. It's a big opportunity for Watford to show everyone that we are ready and we are very competitive."
Flores eager to make a mark at the home of one of this season's Premier League title-chasing sides, then, while a lot of Pochettino's pre-match views have very much centred around the lack of incoming players in the January window. As the Argentinian himself said - there really is a thin line between success and failure. Spurs are on the brink of something special, but defeat today and the dream could well be over.
Confirmation that Leicester City have indeed beaten Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium - another truly special result in this most bizarre of Premier League seasons. As things stand heading into the 3pm kickoffs, Spurs can move into second place, and five points behind the Foxes, should they pick up a win against Watford. Victory for the Hornets, meanwhile, and they can potentially move up as high as seventh place.
PREDICTION! Not the easiest of matches to call, this, but I am going to back Spurs to claim a narrow 1-0 victory. The goals appear to have dried up for the Hornets of late, although they did pick up a rare clean sheet against Chelsea just a few days ago. With the inclusion of Alli in their squad, plus an in-form Kane leading the way, the Lilywhites should have just about enough to overcome their London rivals.
Both sets of players have emerged down the tunnel at White Hart Lane, meaning that kickoff is now just a couple of minutes away.
KICKOFF! After a minute's silence for legendary Spurs double-winner Peter Baker, we are now officially underway in North London. Another key clash in the Premier League!
As expected, Watford have gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation this afternoon. Deeney's absence may be down to a tight hamstring, but this is a good way to set-up at a difficult ground. A slow start to the contest, with play being broken up on a couple of occasions.
Spurs truly dominating possession at the moment, with Watford simply happy to back off slightly. Not enough probing passes thus far, though, so not really a great deal of action to write home about.
More attacking intent to Spurs' play over the past couple of minutes, as both full-backs push up high. A corner was well won by Dembele, but Watford defended well by clearing away the danger. Eriksen will now have a chance to fire away a free kick from 25 yards out...
Eriksen's free kick comes straight back off the wall. Watford not got the ball out of their own half so far, as the home side continue to press for an early opener.
SHOT! First shot on target comes via the boot of Kane, but it was simple enough for Gomes to collect. The Englishman actually evaded a challenge from Ake in the build-up and perhaps could have gone to ground, only to stay on his feet and get the shot away.
Watford get bodies for the first time, yet Suarez is dispossessed in midfield and Kane quickly breaks. The move comes to little for the hosts, but a sign there that the Hornets are not happy to sit back throughout.
So Spurs have made a bright enough start to the contest, then, getting away a few shots including one on target. Watford doing well to stifle their opponents with five in the middle so far, but just how long will this resilience last?
Another rare opening for the visitors to get the ball forward, as Watson lofts in a free kick. The ball failed to get beyond the first man, though, so any chance to get Ighalo in possession went begging. Don't think the Watford frontman has actually touched the ball yet.
Davies and Trippier pushing very high up the field, meaning Dier filling in as an auxiliary defender. Pochettino will not be too concerned by the way the game has panned out up to this point, but more penetrative passes will be required if they are to break Watford down in open play.
Nyom concedes a needless corner, just moments after losing possession up the other end of the field. Eriksen's delivery was decent enough, but it was too close to Gomes who was able to punch clear on his return to White Hart Lane.
Etienne Capoue is another Watford player returning to his old hunting ground this afternoon. Still just the one shot on target, with a quarter of the contest now played.
Better from Watford over the past few minutes. The Hornets were pushed far too high up the pitch inside the opening 20 minutes or so, but they are now looking to ask some questions of Spurs.
CHANCE! Trippier delivers a fine cross into the box, which Chadli does well to get on the end of. The Spurs attacker could only direct his header off Nyom and out for a corner, when he should perhaps have been picking out the bottom corner. Dembele flashes wide from the resulting set-piece.
Some 57% of possession so far this afternoon has been in the middle of the park, with 17% in the Watford final third. Spurs have had the better of things so far, albeit being restricted to just the two half-chances in the opening half-hour.
CLOSE! Watford are opened up by Spurs, allowing Davies to get a clean shot on goal. It comes off Nyom and really could have gone anywhere but, thankfully for the visitors, it deflected the right side of the post for a corner.
SAVE! Great stop by Gomes to deny Spurs a breakthrough goal. Watford well and truly on the ropes now, as Chadli plays in Davies down the left, allowing the Welshman to get a powerful shot on goal from an angle which Gomes was able to push aside.
Watford need to stop sitting back, otherwise that Spurs breakthrough will surely arrive before the break. The Lilywhites have their opponents on the ropes, but the chances are falling to the wrong players. Chadli has just got his header horribly wrong at the front post.
Watford's first shot of the afternoon comes via Abdi, who looks to capitalise on Lloris's questionable positioning. The versatile midfielder lofted his attempt a yard over the bar in the end, though, so a little let off for the hosts.
SAVES! Gomes is proving the key player in this match at the moment. Davies gets into a decent position down the left once more, but his shot flashed across goal thanks to the Brazilian's touch. Lamela was the next to test Gomes, this time with a more simple long-range effort.
Trippier and Davies proving key figures, also, almost playing as forwards at the moment due to the lack of defending required. Still no way through for Tottenham at the moment, though, with Kane failing to direct Dier's lofted pass on target.
Spurs keeping their shape well, essentially playing with three at the back and the rest in attack. Watford need half time just to compose themselves, having just about done enough to hold out in the opening 45 minutes.
Watford enjoy their best passing spell of the game, knocking the ball around high up on the left to take the sting out of the match. It comes to nothing in the end, though more of that will be required following the restart.
Trippier is currently down with an ankle problem. The right-back will receive some treatment before a decision is made at the break over his inclusion for the second half.
HALF TIME: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0-0 WATFORD
So it remains goalless at the break at White Hart Lane, in a game that Spurs have so far edged without truly being able to break down their opponents. Gomes was required to make a few saves, yet it was all routine enough for the Brazilian on his return to North London.
The first shot on target arrived 10 minutes in, with Kane firing in an attempt which Gomes got down easily enough to keep out. Spurs really stepped things up in the final 20 minutes or so of the half, creating a few more openings which very nearly led to a breakthrough - the first of which Chadli failed to capitalise on when seeing his header deflect wide for a corner.
Dembele flashed wide from the resulting corner, although in fairness to the powerful midfielder he had very little time to adjust himself for the shot. Davies then saw a shot of his own deflect wide off Nyom, before the Welshman's latest attempt was palmed aside by Gomes between the visiting side's sticks.
Lamela was the final player to get a first-half shot on target, again seeing Gomes equal to the effort from range as the opening 45 minutes ended in a stalemate. Watford had their own moments, especially late on when pushing high into the opposition half, but they are very much here to stifle the Lilywhites' attacking threats. In that sense, it is so far so good for Quique Sanchez Flores and his men.
Trippier picked up a knock to his ankle in the closing stages of the first half, so we may have a change at full-back prior to the second half getting underway. Plenty of options for both managers to choose from at the break, particularly in attack with the likes of Deeney, Amrabat, Alli and Son among the back-up options.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUBS: Vorm, Rose, Walker, Alli, Carroll, Mason, Son
WATFORD SUBS: Pantilimon, Prodl, Holebas, Behrami, Anya, Amrabat, Deeney
Ben Davies has perhaps been the most involved player for Spurs in an attacking sense, getting away a couple of shots on target after being played in down the left. More of the same will be required in the second half, albeit with more end product needed.
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RESTART! We are back underway at White Hart Lane, where Spurs will be looking to turn possession into goals. News of a couple of changes to bring you - Behrami and Deeney on for Suarez and Abdi for the visitors.
Play has been halted for Britos to receive some treatment after taking a heavy knock to the leg. The Watford man should be okay to continue - at least Flores will certainly hope so, having already used two of his subs.
PENALTY SHOUT! Big shout for a Spurs penalty here, as Kane goes down under a challenge from Gomes. It is really hard to tell no matter which angle you look at - clumsy from Gomes but Kane perhaps goes to ground a tad easily for the referee's liking.
Davies takes on a shot from range, which somehow finds itself nicely in the path of Kane. The Englishman struggled to get the ball truly under control, though, and in the end Watford were able to clear their lines. That momentum to the visitors' play has returned.
Gomes lets a simple enough cross from the right slip through his hands, but the Brazilian recovers well to shove the ball to safety. Watford are going to be forced into making their final change here, as Britos has failed to recover from that earlier knock.
WATFORD SUB! Prodl comes on in place of the injured Britos, meaning that Flores has now made all three of his changes. Not ideal against an energetic Spurs side.
Kane again goes to ground, this time after a little touch from Prodl who has just been introduced. Again, not enough in that one for me.
Great cross from Trippier down the right, but Cathcart is there to clear the ball behind. It is hard to see Watford holding out like this for another 30 minutes - one-way traffic since the restart! Pochettino perhaps thinking about introducing Alli now.
YELLOW CARD! Trippier must be on the brink of setting some sort of record for crosses into the box. Capoue concedes a free kick, and picks up a yellow for his troubles, after bringing down the full-back. Lamela's cross was pretty poor, in truth.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUB! Dele Alli is now on the field after receiving some instructions from his manager. Chadli is the man to be sacrificed in what is essentially a like-for-like change in attack.
GOAL! TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-0 WATFORD (KIERAN TRIPPIER)
Dele Alli has been on the field of play for just a minute, but already he has made the difference. Some nice play from Spurs down the left culminates in the Englishman delivering a fine outside-of-the-boot cross from Trippier to smash home at the back post.
That is now six goals and five assists for Alli in his last 14 league appearances. For Trippier, on the other hand, that goal opens his Spurs account.
Lamela is the latest to be played in, but he can only fire wide on this occasion. Spurs have been good value for that opener; the question now is do they stick or twist for the remaining 22 minutes or so? Pochettino still has two changes available to him.
Capoue goes in a little too heavy on Trippier, though referee Roger East is happy to give him a talking to rather than a second booking. Spurs fans now in full voice after seeing Trippier open the scoring.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUB! Lamela is withdrawn to make way for Son. Certainly no respite for the Hornets, who have already made all three of their changes this afternoon.
Spurs, who are now up to second in the Premier League table, are continuing to push for a second. No question of their mindset for the final quarter of this one - they want to settle the contest sooner rather than later after finally breaking down their stubborn opponents.
Nathan Ake and Harry Kane challenge for the ball early on in the second half. Kane has failed to truly get into the game, with Kieran Trippier instead the unlikely hero in attack for Spurs.
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SAVE! Another big stop made by Gomes, who is this time made to get down and help over Son's low drive. Watford really struggling to turn the tide as we approach the closing stages of the game.
Ake looks to pick out Deeney with a long ball over the top, only for Wimmer to get to the ball first and head back to Lloris. The centre-back had to get his contact spot on, and he did just that. Some encouragement for Watford, regardless.
Eriksen's attempt is saved by Gomes, and Alli can't quite get a telling touch on the rebound. Up the other end, Deeney lays the ball back for Ighalo at the end of a counter-attacking move, but the end attempt is blocked behind.
The crosses continue to fly into the opposition box, but still Spurs cannot get a decisive second. Still a chance for Watford to snatch an undeserved point for as long as it remains at 1-0. Seven minutes to play at White Hart Lane.
Spurs now knocking the ball around and patiently working their way forward through Son and Alli. Gomes again had to be awake to race out and thwart Davies, who got the smallest of touches to a ball over the top.
Still constant pressure from the hosts, which is proving to be the best form of defending. Kane felt he was being held back when aiming to get on the end of Eriksen's cross, but the third small penalty appeal of the afternoon is again waved away. Not long to go now.
A rare attack for Watford, as Nyom get forward down the right. The full-back swings in a cross which Ighalo gets badly wrong with his overhead kick. The Hornets have been so focused on defending that they have struggled to quickly change their mindset when up the other end of the field.
We are now into added time and still Spurs are well in control. No nervousness whatsoever at the moment as Watford struggle to truly get bodies forward. Three minutes of added time left to be played here.
An awkward bounce on the ball leaved hearts in mouths for the first time this afternoon really, but Lloris is there to collect and take any sting out of the game. Pochettino now looking to make another late change.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUB! Eriksen makes way with a minute or so of added time left to play, with Carroll being given a late runout to impress.
A little scare for Watford, as Ighalo smashes Deeney's flick-on into the hands of Lloris. The offside flag was up anyway, but that is a sign of what those two can do on their day. Great link-up - just a shame it has come too late in the game.
FULL TIME: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-0 WATFORD
There we have it - Tottenham Hotspur move up to second place in the Premier League table with a solid 1-0 victory over Watford at White Hart Lane. The scoreline may have been narrow, but the Lilywhites were on top throughout the contest and never truly looked under any real threat once they finally made the breakthrough.
Kieran Trippier's first ever goal for the club proved to be the difference in the end, making it just the one win in eight for Watford. For Tottenham, on the other hand, this sixth win on the bounce keeps hopes alive of a first ever Premier League title success this season. Next up: Manchester City in eight days' time. Be sure to join us for that one right here on Sports Mole. See you then!