Tottenham Hotspur-Watford Preview
It's hard to believe this Monday matchup at Vicarage Road features Champions League hopefuls, but that will be the case when Odion Ighalo and high-flying Watford take on Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham have taken advantage of stumbles by big-spending giants like Manchester United and Chelsea to grab fourth place with 32 points. One of the teams chasing them are the Hornets, who sit seventh on 29 points, trailing United on goal difference.
Ighalo has been in sensational form by scoring in five straight matches, with six in that span to take his season total to 13 to tie for third in the Premier League. His partnership up front with Troy Deeney - the duo have bagged 19 of Watford's 23 goals - has made the Hornets one of the top-flight's most eye-pleasing sides.
"I think we always have the possibility to score," manager Quique Sanchez Flores said. "We always have the possibility to create attempts."
The same holds true for Spurs because of Harry Kane, who is fifth in the league with 11 goals after he struck with a brace in Saturday's 3-0 home win over Norwich City.
The English star also had one eye on the scoreboard, noting the Hornets' 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea on Saturday.
"Watford have been great," Kane said. "They got a good result at Chelsea away today. They've picked up some good results in recent weeks and they're very good at home."
Deeney converted a penalty and Ighalo added a tally as Watford had a four-game win streak snapped despite controlling most of the proceedings against the underachieving Blues. The Hornets entered with three straight clean sheets before Diego Costa struck for a brace.
''It was tough to play against Chelsea but I'm very happy with the point,'' Flores said. ''I think the team has enough confidence for the future, it's amazing for the story of Watford.''
Tottenham enter off the type of London performance that would draw rave reviews had it been a West End theatre production. Kane's first-half double, the first from the penalty spot, gave him 27 league goals this year, eclipsing Teddy Sheringham's Spurs record for a calendar year.
"I don't try and think about the records or things like that," said Kane, whose 11 goals have come in Spurs' last 12 league matches. "It's been a great year, still one more game left in the year, important game on Monday."
Manager Mauricio Pochettino chose not to talk about the Champions League, a competition Spurs have not qualified for since 2010-11 under Harry Redknapp.
"It's always good to see you higher in the table but for me it means nothing," Pochettino said. "It's important at the end of season. We need to still keep working and only be focusing on the next game, Watford in two days, in 48 hours, I will expect another tough game."
Mousa Dembele exited with a calf injury Saturday and his status is in doubt.
Spurs will see a familiar face in Etienne Capoue, a former Tottenham signing by Andres Villas-Boas who underwhelmed during his time at White Hart Lane. The Frenchman has found a new lease on life at Vicarage Road, already logging 1,586 league minutes - one shy of his total with Spurs.