Premier League | White Hart Lane | Sat 11 Jan | 3pm
“Real football men” do battle.
Amid the utter madness of Spurs' season, the mere slight madness of Crystal Palace’s top flight adventure and the overall wibbly-wobbly nature of the 2013/14 Premier League in general, it’s easy to forget that both these sides are currently standing on the cusp of hitting realistic pre-season targets.
- Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham (FAC)
- Man Utd 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-1 WBA (Prem)
- So'ton 2-3 Tottenham (Prem)
CRYSTAL PALACE FORM
- WBA 0-2 Palace (FAC)
- Palace 1-1 Norwich (Prem)
- Man City 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Aston Villa 0-1 Palace (Prem)
- Palace 0-3 Newcastle (Prem)
The Eagles are a point off 17th, a position they’d have pecked your hand off for in August, while Spurs lurk just two points away from Champions League football. Achieving any upward trajectory in the second half of the season after debatable personnel reshuffles on and off the pitch would be a major coup.
Assessing the overall wellbeing of both sides is tougher than stats, however, and he who says the table never lies is an ass.
The north Londoners may be propped handily in 6th, but their goal difference of -1 is only a solitary strike better than Swansea in 13th, which is a more realistic assessment of the health of the patient.
And while Palace no longer looked nailed on to go down as Sunderland, West Ham, Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich all merrily ride the who-can-have-the-biggest-meltdown carousel, more consistency is desperately needed.
Enter two “real football men” – a much-bandied, vaguely xenophobic and ultimately meaningless expression seemingly implying that foreign coaches like AVB are made of marzipan and breadsticks – to try to sweep up the messes at White Hart Lane and Selhurst Park.
Tim Sherwood’s Real Football Manhood has never been in question – his favourite cheese is mild cheddar, after all – but many doubt whether “knowledge of the club and how it works” (thanks, David Pleat) is enough to cut it. Is it harsh, however, to damn the man merely because he’s not, like his predecessor, a charming polyglot who got his hair coiffed at Harrod’s? Tony Pulis, meanwhile, is an almost model Real Football Man, being equal parts tracksuit, grit, liniment and pumping it into the ruddy mixer.
Both have achieved short-term upturns in their outfit’s fortunes since taking the helm – with Sherwood’s Spurs unbeaten in four Premier League meets, and Pulis’ revamped Palace pugilists grabbing more points in December than the whole of the rest of the season combined, then eliminating West Brom from the FA Cup.
The Eagles need to defeat the teams around them rather than those closer to the top to stay up – and a point here would be a bonus – but Pulis being a Real Football Man, expect him to deploy 11 actual human men in and around the actual football in a resolute attempt to frustrate a home side desperate to keep pace with the pack.
Spurs, whose treatment room was beginning to resemble a 7:58am Northern Line carriage, could see Roberto Soldado, Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Sandro finally deployable again. Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen may have to wait another week crushed together until they can disembark, while delays are still likely for Kyle Naughton, Erik Lamela, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lewis Holtby and Paulinho.
Adlene Guedioura could be fit for Palace. Glenn Murray, Jerome Thomas and Jack Hunt remain crocked.
Key battle: Speroni vs Adebayor
Emerging fresh from his AVB exile woe, Adebayor has thumped four goals in Spurs’ last five league games. “When he performs as he is at the moment he’s almost unstoppable,” gushed Sherwood after the win over Manchester United. “I have no reason to believe he won’t keep his form going. He just runs all day long.”
Pulis may be chasing a new keeper, but for now the task of blocking the unstoppable force falls to cult Selhurst hero Speroni. The likeable Argentine has valiantly withstood much bombardment this season, and was key to the cup win over the Baggies. Harness the 29-year-old Togolese goal ram, and Palace have a chance.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Palace 0-1 Spurs (Prem, Aug 13)
- Palace 3-0 Spurs (Prem, Jan 05)
- Spurs 1-1 Palace (Prem, Dec 04)
- Spurs 3-0 Palace (FAC, Jan 04)
- Palace 1-3 Spurs (Prem, Mar 98)
Neither man was in place when Spurs beat Palace 0-1 on the opening day of the season thanks to a Soldado goal, while Pulis’s record against Spurs as Stoke boss (won three, drawn two, lost four) offers no real omen. But expect yelling.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Spurs have drawn the first half in each of their last 8 home matches against bottom-six clubs.
- Tottenham have struggled at home this season picking up just 15 points (W4 D3 L3).
- Under Tim Sherwood’s leadership Spurs have picked up 10 points from a possible 12, only Man City have picked up more points in the last six rounds (13).
- Crystal Palace have lost more games (8) and scored fewer goals (5) than any other team in their 10 away fixtures this season.
- There have been fewer than 3 goals in 7 of their 10 away games and they have had the fewest match goals in the league this term (2.10 GPG).
Best bet: First Half Draw @ 2.65
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Spurs keep it real with a gritty 1-0 win.