A random quirk of the draw means this is really Spurs vs. Foxes, Part 1, with a league fixture on Wednesday. This is a 180 minute contest spread over two matches and three days and it will be fascinating to see how Ranieri and Pochettino rotate their respective squads. Do Leicester have the strength in depth to play high-pressing Tottenham twice in such a short space of time? Do the Lilywhites have the legs to be able to run for that long? Tickets were on sale at a reduced price, probably in response to the BBC’s televising of the game. It remains to be seen how full (or empty) White Hart Lane will actually be.
In terms of form, both teams have 3 wins in their last 6. However, the Foxes are now three games without a victory and a draw against Bournemouth isn’t good enough for a team chasing a top 4 spot. Spurs for their part were generally excellent away at Everton in their last match, but still only managed a point. There will be plenty of motivation to win this Cup match, simply for the confidence boost it will bring when facing the same team in the league a few days later.
Since both teams will have to rotate, whether it be for this fixture or the next one, it’s difficult to highlight the many players to keep an eye on. Tom Carroll for Spurs looks a good bet, considering his fine performance against Everton as a diminutive regista. Other Tottenham players who might make an appearance include Nabil Bentaleb—out initially due to injury, the Algerian international has not been able to break back into this high-performing Tottenham side. Perhaps this is his moment to remind Pochettino of his quality.
For Leicester, Jamie Vardy is unfortunately out for a couple of weeks following minor surgery. Odds are Ranieri is looking to limit Leicester’s exposure to the competition, their focus being on the league considering their great success this season. The likes of Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté all available for selection, but it is difficult to see the Foxes lining up at White Hart Lane with their first choice XI. Both managers will loathe the idea of a replay, and if the result is beyond question before the end of 90 minutes neither side will fight that hard to earn a draw.
FLIP Sports Verdict: Home win. Leicester have too much at stake in the league to get distracted by the FA cup, particularly in such an early round. If this was the sixth round you’d imagine a blood and thunder affair—but it’s not.