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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Tottenham's troubles may continue if they fail to fix their problems

Palace are on the rise

Manchester City hammered Tottenham on Saturday
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1 Spurs need a stronger spine

Tottenham's winless run away to big-six clubs extended to ten games with their 4-1 loss at Manchester City and they need to address some key issues if they are to do better on the toughest road trips.

Mauricio Pochettino set up with a highly offensive side featuring two forward-thinking full backs in Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose, a ball playing midfielder in Harry Winks, and an attacking quartet of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, Del Alli and Harry Kane. But he got the balance of the side all wrong for a contest against arguably the best team in Premier League history.

Moussa Dembele was overworked in midfield and centre-backs Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen were left horribly exposed to wave after wave of City attacks.

Options were limited by Davinson Sanchez's ban and injuries to Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama, but Pochettino could have gone with a back three, selecting Ben Davies on the left, or used the physical power of Moussa Sissoko in midfield.

City were irresistible but Spurs played in a naive fashion and could have lost by more had their opponents been more ruthless in front of goal.

2 Eagles can soar into top half

Crystal Palace looked in a desperate state when Roy Hodgson joined them in September but they approach the Christmas period full of confidence after a seven-match unbeaten run which has seen them climb out of the drop zone.

Serious mistakes were made in the summer, when Palace took far too long to appoint a new manager and did too little in the transfer market, leaving Christian Benteke as their only fit striker.

They were in a mess by the time Hodgson arrived but the ex-England manager brought a wealth of experience and a calming influence to the club and has turned Palace into a decent side.

The Eagles dismantled Leicester 3-0 on Saturday and are only five points adrift of ninth place.

A striker should be high on Palace's shopping list and if they make the right purchase, there is every chance of them finishing in the top half.

3 More giants to be slayed at the Den

Millwall enjoy playing at home and they love a challenge, as they showed by deservedly beating big-spending Middlesbrough 2-1 on Saturday.

All of the Lions' six league wins have come at the Den and most of them have been against big clubs.

Neil Harris's side have also toppled Norwich (4-0), Leeds (1-0) and Sheffield United (3-1) in south London this season and are gaining a reputation as giant-slayers.

They seem to raise their game against the top teams and it will be fascinating to see how they get on when they host leaders Wolves on Boxing Day.

4 Pompey look playoff bound

Kenny Jackett has taken two clubs out of the third tier – Millwall in 2010 and Wolves in 2014 – and may achieve the same feat with Portsmouth this season.

After winning Sky Bet League Two last season, Pompey took a while to adjust to a higher level.

In the summer they were forced into making a managerial change when Paul Cook left for Wigan. But after a choppy start under Jackett they are clicking into gear.

Portsmouth have won five of their last six league games – lifting them to seventh – and they look in great shape to mount a playoff challenge.

5 Chairboys sitting pretty

Gareth Ainsworth is the fourth-longest serving manager in the top four divisions and his five years of work in the Wycombe hotseat may be about to bear fruit.

The Buckinghamshire side went agonisingly close to promotion in 2014-15, finishing one point outside the top three and losing the playoff final on penalties, and took a while to recover.

But Ainsworth has assembled another strong team and led them to fourth place, as high as they have been since August.

Wycombe's squad boast a wealth of experience plus a variety of attacking options and they look equipped to nail down a top-three finish.

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Moussa Dembele was overworked in midfield and centre-backs Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen were left horribly exposed
E.W. Terms
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