Harry Kane is racing to return from injury for old team-mate Ryan Mason, Manchester City are starting to show cracks and good omens when the year ends in one… seven reasons why underdogs Tottenham CAN win the Carabao Cup final
- Tottenham are major underdogs in their Carabao Cup final against Man City
- The club boldly sacked Jose Mourinho just days before the Wembley showpiece
- Ryan Mason faces a huge task to lift the trophy in his second match in charge
- Sportsmail looks at Tottenham’s reasons for optimism ahead of Sunday’s final
Tottenham’s chances of winning the Carabao Cup against Manchester City were already being swiftly written off when Jose Mourinho was still in charge.
Sacking him just days before their Wembley showpiece has left the north Londoners as serious underdogs, with 29-year-old Ryan Mason given the daunting task of trying to lift the trophy in just his second game in charge.
Mason – taken on as a coach by Spurs after his career prematurely ended at 26 due to a head injury – only has experience of coaching the club’s Under 17s and Under 18s, and will now be plunged into a tactical duel with one of the best coaches of all time in Pep Guardiola.
Ryan Mason faces a huge uphill task to steer Tottenham to League Cup glory against Man City
He will be charged with outwitting Pep Guardiola at Wembley in his second game in charge
The former Tottenham midfielder has inherited a talented yet underperforming squad and certainly has the players to hurt Manchester City, but his side will be right up against it as they bid to thwart the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez at Wembley on Sunday afternoon.
The Premier League leaders have won this competition for the last three years running – and have lifted it five times in the last seven years. It’s a trophy they know how to win, while Spurs have gone 13 years without any silverware to their name.
So, do Tottenham have any hope of an unlikely victory against Manchester City in the final? Sportsmail breaks down why Spurs fans shouldn’t give up hope of glory.
Mason’s band of brothers
Handing the reins to a coach as inexperienced as Mason certainly left a few Spurs fans scratching their heads. A player that was sold by the club a few years ago is now back as interim head coach until the end of the season, and charged with ending their trophy drought in his first week.
He’s not quite the inspirational figure you would want to spur your team on in a cup final if his playing career is anything to go by, but it shouldn’t be forgotten the bond Mason shares with this team.
Having come through the Tottenham ranks at the age of eight alongside Harry Kane, Mason is a lifelong Spurs fan and knows exactly what it means to play for the club.
Mason knows most of the squad on a personal level and can bring a family feel to the team
He played alongside the likes of Eric Dier, who will get a boost playing for a familiar face
He made 70 appearances for the first team and only left five years ago – his former team-mates Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Erik Lamela, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Toby Alderweireld, Ben Davies and Kane are all still with the club.
Coaching players you know on a personal level and share a close relationship with can only be a positive – and the team will get a lift from working with a someone they see as a friend following the toxic environment Mourinho had brought to the club.
Mason won’t be digging out the team in the press, and won’t be playing mind games and isolating individuals. Instead, he’ll be giving everyone a chance to prove their worth and help the team pick up results. Ahead of the final, the feeling of family and togetherness will be Tottenham’s biggest weapon.
Harry Kane still in the running
There’s no getting around it – if Kane is on that pitch come Sunday afternoon, Spurs have a much better chance of winning the trophy, even if he’s limping on one leg.
Of course, club staff won’t risk him suffering further complications and Kane himself will be wary of scuppering his chances of competing at the Euros, but the fact Mason has refused to rule Kane out of the game is a huge boost to the club.
As was the news he was back training – albeit on his own – on Thursday, less than a week after suffering an ankle injury during their 2-2 draw against Everton, in which he highlighted his importance with a brace.
Harry Kane has started training again after his ankle injury and is still in the running to play
Spurs beat Southampton 2-1 without him in the side, and Son Heung-min is a worthy deputy should he miss out, but Guardiola and his players will definitely be left sweating a little bit more if they see Kane’s name on the team-sheet alongside him.
Kane is having one of his best seasons in a Tottenham shirt – netting 31 times in 43 appearances – and he’s made it clear how hungry he is to win a trophy. He’s also been heavily linked with a move away, with City a rumoured destination.
Whether his motivation is putting himself in the shop window or hunting down his first career trophy for his boyhood side, Kane will be a dangerous opponent to play against should he be declared fit.
The pressure is off
It almost seems routine that Guardiola’s men will win this cup as they bid to scoop the treble this season.
But that feeling just might work in Tottenham’s favour. City are cruising to the Premier League title but face a huge week coming – first the cup final on Sunday, followed by an epic Champions League semi-final against PSG.
Should they lose both, their superb and initially promising season could fizzle out – so there’ll be pressure on their shoulders to get the ball rolling and seal their first trophy of the campaign.
Manchester City are overwhelming favourites to win the final as they seek a treble this season
Spurs will embrace the underdog tags against City and will instead try to enjoy the occasion
Most would have identified Mourinho’s recent record over Guardiola and his tactical nous to outwit him on the big day as a big positive going for Spurs, but with Mason left to pick up the pieces, the Spaniard may underestimate his ability.
Spurs have already had a big burden taken off their shoulders with Mourinho’s exit confirmed – now they should be able to just enjoy the occasion with no huge expectation for them to bring the trophy home.
When the year ends in one…
Tottenham fans are well aware that the club have a knack for winning silverware at this sort of time. The club have won eight trophies when the year ends in one – is it time for another to be added to the collection in 2021?
The record has become a big superstition for the club – even though they have not won a trophy in such a year since 1991.
Mourinho himself admitted he was uncaring about the notion at the start of the season. ‘I really don’t care about superstitions at all,’ he said.
History is kind to Tottenham when the year ends in one – but their last trophy in such a year came all the way back in 1991, when they won the FA Cup
Tottenham’s famous side under Bill Nicholson (centre) won the league and cup double in 1961
‘I don’t give a … I was about to say a bad word, but I don’t given an ‘s’ about superstitions.’
But Spurs will need all the good omens they can get ahead of Sunday and Mason will certainly be hoping history repeats itself. Tottenham’s first major trophy came in 1900-01 when they became the first non-league team to win the FA Cup.
Another FA Cup landed in 1920-21 before their first league title in 1950-51 and the league and cup double in 1960-61. They won the League Cup in 1970-71 as well as two more FA Cups in 1980-81 and 1990-91.
Licence to attack
Now that Spurs have been de-shackled from Mourinho’s defensive, anti-football, supporters can look forward to the team reclaiming their traditional attacking style.
The club’s motto is ‘To Dare Is To Do’, but that ethos was starting to become lost under Mourinho’s leadership. In Mason’s first game in charge against Southampton, fans were already rejoicing the return of attacking football in the opening stages of the game.
Mason has set out his plans for the club for the remaining seven games and wants the team to be ‘brave and aggressive’. For what he lacks in experience on the touchline at the highest level, he can make up for by granting the team freedom to go out and express themselves.
The team were often left frustrated by negative and defensive tactics under Mourinho (left)
Mason has outlined his desire for the players to be ‘brave and aggressive’ under his leadership
‘I’d hope to think [my side] is what a Tottenham Hotspur side would historically look like,’ Mason said after being unveiled as interim boss.
‘I want us to be brave and aggressive, to play like Tottenham Hotspur.’
This week Bale took a swipe at Mourinho this week by admitting the team are desperate to attack teams after he played a starring role in their win over Southampton.
When asked how Spurs should improve after the Mourinho era, Bale told Sky Sports: ‘Maybe just to be on the front foot a bit more. We want to attack, we’re a big club, we want to attack and we did that today.’
Tottenham’s best defensive strategy against City might be to go for the jugular and try to hurt them.
Gareth Bale said the team were keen to play an attacking style after beating Southampton
Are City looking vulnerable?
Speaking of hurting City, this might be a decent time to go up against the Sky Blues. They’re still reeling from their FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea, where they were outgunned tactically and left exposed by a smart Blues side.
Mason does not have the same know-how as Thomas Tuchel, granted, so it will take a different approach to down them again at Wembley, but there are signs this great team are starting to show cracks.
They edged past Villa on Wednesday night, but it took a great effort as John Stones was given a straight red card for a shocking challenge on Jacob Ramsey – and now the defender will miss the final on Sunday.
City have been excellent this season but showed a glimmer of vulnerability in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea
Guardiola has options that can come in for Stones, but the England star had formed a solid partnership with Ruben Dias, which will now be broken up.
Add this to City’s lack of a world class goalscorer – Gabriel Jesus has not done the business this season, while Sergio Aguero has been sidelined by injury for much of the campaign.
Guardiola has relied on his midfielders to get on the scoresheet this term, so if Mason can find a way to shut off the supply to his playmakers, it could be key.
Mason may not know what it takes to win a major final, but he knows what it means to lose one.
The former midfielder was in the team the last time Tottenham competed in a League Cup final – in a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea in 2014-15.
Ironically, the Blues side was managed by his predecessor Mourinho, and Mason can take that feeling of pain into this cup final.
Mason was on the losing side in Tottenham’s last League Cup final appearance – he will take the pain of losing to Chelsea into Sunday’s game
He will have felt that wave of agony as he and the team were forced by Mauricio Pochettino to stand and watch Chelsea lift the trophy.
But that was nothing to later challenges further down his career – losing his place in the Tottenham team and being sold to Hull before facing a fight for his life following a horror injury to his head against Chelsea in 2017.
He has plenty of character-building experiences he can draw upon when Sunday comes around.
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