Tottenham vs Southampton predictions: Kane and Son to make Saints suffer
Two clubs with contrasting ambitions for the campaign in front of them meet in North London on Saturday when Tottenham host Southampton.
Spurs made rapid progress under Antonio Conte last term as the Italian took them from eighth place in the table after 24 games to a coveted top-four finish.
A summer recruitment drive to further the club's quest for elusive silverware has only strengthened the ex-Chelsea boss' hand.
And it could yet catapult Spurs into title contenders, a club that has comprised of only Liverpool and Manchester City since Conte's Stamford Bridge exit in 2018.
Southampton, on the other hand, can only aim for survival as they embark on their fourth full season under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Austrian has guided the club through thick and thin, but their summer transfer activity suggests it will be more challenging than ever for him to keep them afloat in the Premier League.
Spurs will be without new signing Richarlison after he was handed a one-match suspension for an incident involving a smoke flare at his former club Everton.
Conte has ruled out midfielder Oliver Skipp because of a heel injury, but remains hopeful Yves Bissouma can shrug off a hamstring issue and prove his fitness.
If the ex-Brighton star does, Conte can name the same starting line-up that faced Roma in Spurs' final warm-up game.
Sergio Reguilon, Harry Winks, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso are unlikely to feature, with the foursome not forming part of Conte's current plans.
Nathan Tella remains sidelined for Southampton with knee trouble, while Tino Livramento is a long-term casualty after undergoing surgery.
Theo Walcott is not ready to play either after missing the club's pre-season action with an unspecified injury.
Hasenhuttl has an intriguing decision to make in goal where he could hand summer signing Gavin Bazunu the gloves instead of tried-and-tested veteran Alex McCarthy.
Bazunu did well enough in the first half of Saints' 2-1 pre-season defeat to Villarreal to suggest he has the edge.
Fellow new signings Armel Bella-Kotchap, Romeo Lavia and Sekou Mara — all aged 20 or under too — should feature at some stage, with Joe Aribo almost nailed-on to start after his transfer south from Rangers.
Southampton, who have won just one of their last 12 league games and lost their last four, have started each of the last three seasons under Hasenhuttl with a defeat.
They did pull off a shock win over Spurs last February, however, when Che Adams grabbed the 82nd-minute clincher at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
That game featured yet another goal for Heung-Min Son, who has hit 10 in 13 appearances against Southampton in the Premier League — just one fewer than Saints' other chief tormentor — Harry Kane.
Both teams have scored in 14 of the last 15 meetings between the clubs, but Conte improved Spurs' defensive record greatly as last season progressed, with five clean sheets recorded in their final eight games.
Kane and Son have feasted on the spaces provided by Hasenhuttl's brave — but sometimes foolhardy — tactic of deploying a high defensive line in the past.
The dynamic duo — now ably assisted by the indefatigable Dejan Kulusevski — have the pedigree to pounce on any mistakes a relatively inexperienced backline might make on Saturday.
Conte's Spurs have cut out the blunders that held them back early last season and can break the cycle of both teams scoring in the last six head-to-head meetings by satisfying their boss' craving for a win with a clean sheet.