Premier League

Who Should Start For Spurs: Sissoko vs Winks?

 • by Matt Gault
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has one of the strongest squads in the Premier League at his disposal.

That includes one of the strongest midfields. Although Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé remain sidelined through injury, the Spurs boss still has the talents of Christian Eriksen, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko to call upon.

And it’s the latter two names that will be giving the Argentine a selection headache when the Premier League resumes next week following the World Cup qualifiers.

With huge games against Real Madrid – home and away in the Champions League – Liverpool and Manchester United to negotiate before the end of the month, Pochettino will be keen to determine his strongest starting XI with Dembélé and Wanyama still out.

Winks, despite starting only four league games for Spurs in his career, has shown what he can do at the highest level, while Sissoko is in the midst of a career resurgence after failing to secure a move away from the North London club in the summer.

Although Sissoko had started the last three games, Winks was preferred for the 4-0 win away to Huddersfield Town. The 21-year-old played the full 90 minutes, although Sissoko came off the bench to grab his first Spurs goal – issuing a reminder to Pochettino that he expects to play from the start.

The Huddersfield game and a first senior England call-up for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania was an undoubtedly valuable experience for Winks, but Pochettino may be wise to stick with Sissoko for huge games against the current Champions League holders and top-four rivals.

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While the home game to Bournemouth may represent another opportunity for Winks to get minutes under his belt, Sissoko has impressed enough this season to regain his starting place after that. Crucially, Sissoko’s experience will be key when Spurs visit the Santiago Bernabéu in two weeks, and Old Trafford two weeks after that.

Spurs will be expected to set-up to counter-attack against Madrid. Such is their dominance and superb ball retention, that’s just the way it is.

With that in mind, Sissoko’s pace – with or without the ball – will be a key asset for counter-attacking a team like Madrid.

And, it’s not doing Winks a disservice to say that Sissoko represents a much more robust presence in the middle, averaging 1.7 tackles per game, eclipsing Winks’s 1.3.

Pochettino clearly sees great potential in Winks’s future but, at this stage of his career, he is still learning and throwing him into a daunting game against Madrid may not be the greatest decision.

Sissoko is far from perfect, of course. The Frenchman can be wasteful, unpredictable and enigmatic but, in recent weeks, he has shown genuine attempts to integrate himself into the Spurs first team, which is why he deserves to retain his place. For now at least.

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