Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest face their toughest test so far this season, as they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the City Ground on Sunday.
It’s been an impressive start of the season for the Reds, who’s four points from three games sees them higher-up the table than; Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. Spurs will pose their biggest challenge so far however, and Antonio Conte’s side will be confident they will pick up another three points to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
The North-London side were tipped for another top-four finish at the start of the season. We’re only three games in and so far Spurs have lived up to expectations, other than being held by Chelsea, Conte’s side have won both of their other fixtures and are on one of the better runs of form out of the traditional top six. Nottingham Forest will be hoping to holt their momentum in front of a sell-out City Ground, which proved to be a tough place to go to as seen against West Ham. If the fans turn up it can easily become a cauldron on the banks of the Trent.
WHERE AND WHEN:
Venue: The City Ground, Nottingham
Date: Sunday, 28th August 2022.
Time: 16:30 BST.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Scott Ledger.
Fourth official: Darren England.
VAR: Stuart Attwell.
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan.
It’s another week and another injury for Nottingham Forest, this time Orel Mangala is a doubt for Sunday’s game. The Belgian has looked fantastic in his past two games and would be a big miss if he’s ruled out of this weekends contest. Playing alongside Lewis O’Brien, Mangala has really helped solidify Forest’s midfield, breaking up play and helping move the ball forward. Fortunately enough, due to their extensive summer recruitment, Steve Cooper now has a plethora of midfield talent to call upon with Remo Freuler or Ryan Yates the likely replacements if Mangala is sidelined. Both players looked excellent in midweek in thE Carabao Cup, but Yates would probably get the nod after impressing in his Premier League debut against Everton.
Tottenham are without key defender Cristian Romero who will miss his second game through injury. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League and added some much needed toughness to the Spurs backline. Davinson Sanchez took the Argentines place last weekend and we can expect him to do the same this time around after a solid performance in their win against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
This will be the toughest test so far for Forest in the Premier League – until Wednesday when they face Manchester City. Spurs will look to control the game and with the quality of their squad it’s hard to see anything else happening.
Conte’s 3-4-3 system will see a heavy emphasis on using his wingbacks to progress the ball forward and create chances for a lethal front three of Heung Min Son, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski, who could run Forest’s backline raggid. Against a very good Spurs side it’s likely that Forest will sit deep and try to shut down any Spurs attacks which would create plenty of counter attacking opportunities. Whoever plays in the number 10 role would need to be willing to drop deep to regain possession and be able to quickly move the ball through for one of the two forwards.
As is the quality of attacking threat of Ivan Perisic, Neco Williams will have his work cut out on this right-hand side and will need to sit deeper to support Joe Worrall, who has struggled to adjust in the top-flight. Spurs front three are frightening for most defenders, let alone an injury hit newly promoted side and with Moussa Niakhate ruled out it could be a long 90 minutes for Forest’s defensive cohort – fortunately, Dean Henderson has so far proven to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league this season and is arguably the main reason for Forest’s positive start. The Manchester United loanee will have another big role to play this Sunday facing one of the best strikers in the world.
So far I’ve been pretty successful in singling out Forest’s key players – last weekend I spoke about Brennan Johnson who scored Forest’s only goal in their draw against Everton. Despite only playing a handful of minutes last weekend, I fancy Morgan Gibbs-White to start against the Lilywhites and I’m backing him to have a big game.
I mentioned earlier that Forest need a number 10 to drop deep and link the defence to their attack, as they will be needing to find opportunities to break against a dominant Spurs side. Jesse Lingard doesn’t fir this type of role quite as well as Gibbs-White and after the latter’s cameo performance last weekend it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take the place of the former Manchester United man, Gibbs-White is going to be crucial in allowing Forest to get out of the defence and creating goal scoring opportunities, having to progress the ball forward and get his side on the front foot. with the midfield duo behind him likely to chip in defensively, Gibbs-White will often be the only midfielder with the license to get forward frequently – if he’s able to bring the ball out from deep and play Johnson and Taiwo Awoniyi in behind then they’re likely to cause problems for the Tottenham defence.
Looking at this Spurs side there are so many players who could turn up and run the show, but in recent weeks it’s been new signing Ivan Perisic who’s been catching the eye. There were question marks over his role at Spurs after having limited game time in pre-season, but he’s now cemented his place on the left-flank – picking up two assists in the process.
He’s one of the main creative outlets in this Tottenham side and his incredible delivery from the wing, coupled with the finishing ability of Kane and Son makes him a massive threat on the left-hand side. It seems to be a reoccurring theme that opposing left-wingers are set to have good games against Nottingham Forest, with Worrall looking suspect defensively, especially when isolated. This is definitley something Perisic can take advantage of and if he’s able to get near the byline around the Forest box you fancy him to get the ball past Worrall and into dangerous areas. If he’s at his best it’s going to be a long day for Cooper’s side.
Djed Spence was a name on everyone’s lips this summer, following a stellar season for Nottingham Forest. He was linked with a return to the City Ground earlier in the season, but also had interest from both Spurs and Arsenal. There were some concerns over game time, but it was impossible for Spence to turn down a move to Tottenham – playing in one of the best grounds in the world, playing Champions League football & under one of the best managers.
So far, Spence is yet to feature for his new side and after refusing to go out on loan his relationship with Conte is already deteriorating so it seems unlikely he will get a chance to start any time soon. Forest’s Spence replacement, Neco Williams, has hit the ground running in the Garibaldi and looks to be one of the best additions they’ve made this summer – a far cry from the fortunes of the man he’s replaced.
As a Forest fan it’s sad to see a player of Spence’s calibre unwanted at Spurs but it now seems the move came too soon in his career. Here’s hoping he can force his way back into Conte’s squad – maybe even on his City Ground return this Sunday.
Nottingham Forest predicted XI vs Tottenham: Henderson, Mckenna, Cook, Worrall, Toffolo, Williams, O’Brien, Yates, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Johnson
Tottenham predicted XI vs Nottingham Forest: Lloris, Davies, Dier, Romero, Perisic, Emerson, Bentancur, Hojbjerg, Son, Kulusevski, Kane.