Tottenham kick-off their FA Cup campaign with a tricky third round tie against League Two Tranmere at Prenton Park on Friday.
The trip to Merseyside marks the start of a hectic few weeks for Mauricio Pochettino's side that also includes a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea as well as a home clash with Manchester United in the Premier League.
It's set to be a memorable occasion for Tranmere, who were promoted from the National League last season and reached the quarter-finals of the competition as recently as 2004.
|Game||Tranmere v Tottenham|
|Date||Friday, January 4|
|Time||7:45pm GMT / 2:45pm ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be streamed live on ESPN+
|US TV channel||Online stream|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on BT Sport 2 and streamed on BT Sport Live.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|BT Sport 2||BT Sport Live|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Davies, George, Pilling, Wharton, Passant|
|Defenders||Buxton, Ridehalgh, Sutton, McNulty, Monthe, Caprice, Ellis, Gumbs, Bakayogo|
|Midfielders||Tollitt, Harris, McCullough, Smith Gilmour, Williams, Banks, Cole, Nugent, Devine, Wallisson|
|Forwards||Jennings, Mullin, Norwood, Akammadu, Stockton|
Midfielder Ollie Banks is available again to Tranmere after hernia surgery and could go straight into the starting XI for this encounter, but Dylan Mottley-Henry is missing due to a hamstring injury.
There are doubts over Ritchie Sutton while goalkeeper Shamal George has returned to Liverpool following the end of his loan period.
Possible Tranmere starting XI: Davies; Buxton, Ellis, Monthe; Caprice, Banks, McCullough, Ridehalgh; Smith, Norwood, Jennings
|Goalkeepers||Lloris, Vorm, Gazzaniga|
|Defenders||Trippier, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Walker-Peters, Foyth, Aurier, Davies|
|Midfielders||Winks, Lamela, Nkoudou, Dier, Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen, Moura|
Tottenham are troubled by a string of injury issues, though the likelihood is that Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier – the regulars they are without – would not have played in this match in any case.
Victor Wanyama is a couple of weeks away from training, following two months on the sidelines, while Erik Lamela is also missing and there are doubts over Serge Aurier, too.
Mauricio Pochettino is liable to rotate heavily for this encounter, so an unfamiliar starting XI is virtually certain.
Possible Tottenham starting XI: Gazzaniga; Walker-Peters, Foyth, Maghoma, Davies; Skipp, Amos; Lucas, Alli, Nkoudou; Llorente
Betting & Match Odds
Tottenham are unsurprisingly heavy 1/5 favourites to progress through to the fourth round according to bet 365, while a draw is available at 13/2. A shock win for Tranmere is priced at a hefty 16/1.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says he would have been sacked by now had he prioritised the domestic cup competitions over the Premier League and Champions League.
One of the few criticisms of Pochettino's reign has been the failure to land a major trophy, despite leading the side to a trio of top-three Premier League finishes and regular Champions League participation during his four-and-a-half years in charge.
However, the former Southampton boss is unrepentant about placing the domestic cups low on his priority list, suggesting his job would be on the line if Premier League progress had been hindered due to cup distractions.
“If my ambition in Tottenham is only to win the Carabao Cup or FA Cup, with all the respect for that, I think my ambition does not match the ambition of a club like Tottenham,” he said.
“I don’t know how we’ve finished in the last three seasons, but if we just won the FA Cup, I don’t know if chairman Daniel Levy would have much patience with me or would say: ‘OK, you’re 10th in the Premier League, I’ll keep you and give you a new contract.’ I don’t believe that.”
Indeed, the Argentine questioned the difference that winning such a competition would make for his side.
“Of course we want to win a trophy but that doesn’t mean it’s going to put Tottenham on a different level,” he argued.
“What puts you in a different level is if you win the Premier League and you're capable of challenging every season for the Premier League, and if you play Champions League and you really believe and you're a real contender one day to win the Champions League. That's my objective in Tottenham.”
For Tranmere, the game marks a significant milestone in their revival after the low of relegation to the National League four years ago. They regained their Football League status via the play-offs last May and currently find themselves just three points outside the play-off places in League Two.
It will also bring back memories of the team's memorable cup runs during the early 2000s, when they reached the FA Cup quarter-finals three times in four years as well as the League Cup final in 2000.
"It’s about the whole of the football club showing the whole football world that Tranmere is still here," said Tranmere boss Micky Mellon.
"We disappeared off the Football League radar for a while and when you have three years out of the league you can lose generations of fans. You can stop being a big football club. But we have seen in the last few years with trips to Wembley, occasions like this and the promotion battles that Tranmere is still here. It still has a fan base that, when called upon, can sell out in three hours.
“It has unbelievable potential and it is up to us as a football business to make sure that we keep the momentum going forward. Friday night will help that.”