Norwich City-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to continue their under-the-radar rise up the Premier League table Boxing Day when they host Norwich City at White Hart Lane.
Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs (7-8-2) moved into the top four last weekend and have lost just two matches all season, but their eight draws have both damaged hopes of an unlikely title challenge and ensured the side's improved showings have gone largely unnoticed.
The Lilywhites have been transformed under Pochettino, particularly at the back - where they have conceded the joint-fewest goals in the league this season with 14, matched only by Manchester United and Arsenal. Scoring goals has been slightly more of an issue for Tottenham at times, but their tally of 28 still puts them in the top five, and a 2-0 win over Southampton last weekend pushed the north Londoners above United and firmly into the race for the top four.
"For us, the table today is not important," a typically understated Pochettino said. "The important table for me is how it finishes.
"We need to keep working hard and be focused. We are the youngest squad in the league and don't need any distractions, just to believe more. The reaction (in the win over Southampton) was fantastic. To win the game was important for us as we felt very disappointed about the last result (a 2-1 loss to Newcastle). I want to congratulate the players on what was a fantastic game."
Tottenham will feel confident of making it back-to-back wins when Norwich (4-5-8) come calling on Boxing Day, with the Canaries down in 16th and just two points clear of the relegation zone. However, Alex Neil's Norwich have proven tricky opponents for the league's higher-profile clubs, taking points off Arsenal and Everton in recent weeks before beating Manchester United 2-1 last time out thanks to an impressively organised defensive effort.
"At United we had the right team, we had the right approach and the players did fantastically well," Neil said. "Now we want the same again at Tottenham.
"We want to kick on and hope we can build on it, but it is not easy when you are a newly promoted team and you are fighting against, let's be honest, far bigger clubs than us. Let's just try to keep building. We need wins. That is the key. I have said it all season: there is no reason we can't win games, because we are competitive and we have good players. It is just making sure we are highly-organised and we limit the mistakes, because you can't gift good teams a goal."
Neil is unlikely to be able to call upon the services of defender Andre Wisdom at White Hart Lane due to a hamstring problem, while midfielder Matt Jarvis is also a doubt with a knee injury.
Clinton N'Jie and Alex Pritchard are both out for Spurs, while Ryan Mason and Danny Rose are doubts. Harry Kane has shaken off a knock and is expected to start the game.
Three points for Norwich on Saturday would be their first Boxing Day win in six attempts in the Premier League. Spurs' Christian Eriksen has scored in both of his previous Boxing Day appearances.