Swansea a big test for Bentaleb, but Spurs should win

Posted by Dan Fitch

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesNabil Bentaleb has impressed since being inserted into the Spurs starting XI by manager Tim Sherwood.

Tim Sherwood's reign as Tottenham manager has been eased by a fairly kind Premier League fixture list. An injury-hit Southampton were followed by home games against struggling West Brom and Stoke. Then came a trip to Old Trafford that is nowhere near as daunting as it was 12 months ago, before a return to White Hart Lane to face Crystal Palace and the world's worst penalty.

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Swansea completes this run of fixtures, ahead of the somewhat tougher challenge of Manchester City. The Swans have won just two of their fifteen home games this season and are without a league win in their last seven games.

Michael Laudrup is struggling with the biggest injury list in the Premier League, in a season where their resources have been stretched by their Europa League campaign. They should there for the taking.

Sherwood's Spurs have carried on where Andre Villas-Boas' reign left off in terms of away results. Both away trips have been won so far and with fourth-placed Liverpool facing an easy looking home game against Aston Villa, claiming all three points is important, especially with Manchester City to come.

Such a result might be hard to come by if the team put in a performance akin to the one witnessed against Crystal Palace last Saturday. The first-half display was very poor and Tottenham were lucky not to go in behind.

Unlike Laudrup, Sherwood's injury problems are starting to clear. Kyle Walker is out after his injury against Palace and will be deputised by Kyle Naughton, but otherwise I'd expect Spurs to be unchanged.

The likes of Jan Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul, Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend are all back in training, though this game might come a little too early for them. Sherwood might choose to start with Jermain Defoe over Roberto Soldado, but with the England's striker's time at the club limited, I'd rather the manager concentrate on getting the best out of the player that will still be here come the end of the season.

If selected, Nabil Bentaleb will face another big test. He was the standout player against Crystal Palace, but I find all this talk about him being the real deal a trifle premature. It was only his third league appearance and it came at home against the league's bottom side.

There will be much tougher games to come and an away trip to Swansea is a difficult assignment for any central midfielder. Laudrup's side might not be having as successful a season as they've enjoyed in recent years, but they remain the team that average the most amount of possession in the league.

Tottenham have looked fragile at times -- such as in the away games at Manchester United and Arsenal -- when Bentaleb has been paired with Mousa Dembele. I'd prefer Etienne Capoue to be reintroduced alongside Dembele for this one, but with his future in doubt, I'd expect Bentaleb to continue his education.

The control of the midfield will be an important battle but it ultimately doesn't add up to much if you can't score from your possession. Swansea don't look nearly as dangerous from that perspective as they did in Michu's hugely successful debut season.

Spurs boast the great danger in attack and with their new found adventure, they should come away with another three points on the road.


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