The Premier League resumes on Boxing Day, as Brentford welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the Gtech Community Stadium on Monday evening.
Brentford entered the World Cup break in some fashion, beating defending Premier League champions Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium thanks to an Ivan Toney brace. They are 10th in the table and will want to restart their campaign with a win.
Tottenham, on the other hand, dropped to fourth in the table following some poor results before the season was paused. Nonetheless, Antonio Conte’s men are already eight points adrift of bitter rivals Arsenal and are looking over their shoulder with Manchester United on the ascent.
On that note, here are three key battles that could define the outcome of this game.
#Ivan Toney vs Eric Dier
Ivan Toney was in superb form in the first half of the season with 10 goals in 14 games, which includes a brace against Man City, but it was not enough to earn a call-up for the World Cup. Although hit with an FA charge, he can still train and play for Brentford until the investigation is fully completed.
In that case, Toney is a certainty to start in a two-pronged attack with Bryan Mbeumo against Tottenham. One man tasked with attempting to stop Toney will be Eric Dier. Having not played much for England at the World Cup, Dier should be fit and fresh to start in a back three for Spurs. With some strong displays before the break, he looks like a player reborn under Conte.
However, Toney’s pace, physicality and aerial ability present a big challenge for Spurs and Dier will have his work cut out here.
#Harry Kane vs Vitaly Janelt
Perhaps an unlikely match-up given their natural positions on the pitch, but Harry Kane has developed a fondness for dropping deeper in midfield and using his playmaking skills to set up Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski.
This is something Brentford midfielder Vitaly Janelt will need to keep a close eye on. If Janelt can nullify the impact of Kane’s passing range and vision and instead get Brentford on the front foot, Thomas Frank’s boys will be cutting off the biggest threat Spurs possess.
#Emerson Royal vs Rico Henry
Emerson Royal has been a regular at right wing-back for Spurs this season but has struggled to make an impression with some underwhelming displays. Regardless, Conte has kept his faith in Emerson and the Brazilian is expected to start against Brentford.
Given Emerson’s form, it is an area Brentford could look to exploit through their own wing-back—Rico Henry. A certainty to feature as the left wing-back, Henry has the pace and energy to pin back Emerson and use his attacking qualities to stretch the Spurs backline.
Similarly, the Brentford wing-back will also leave spaces behind when he goes forward, something Emerson should tactfully aim to take advantage of. All in all, this potential battle between Emerson and Henry could shape up to be an interesting watch.