The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Fulham
A scrap for survival, in more ways than one...
- WBA 3-3 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 5-1 S'land (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-2 So'ton (Prem)
- Benfica 2-2 Tottenham (EL)
- Fulham 1-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Everton (Prem)
- Man City 5-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
The spring of 2013/14 will provide interesting tests of characters for both sides, though Spurs have very little to play for at present (unless you're counting their near-on impossible chances of Champions League qualification) and Fulham might be looking towards fixtures with an FA Cup final-primed Hull, plus Stoke and Palace as more realistic point-grabbing opportunities.
Still, for Felix Magath's side, this is an opportunity to continue their hot streak of form (relatively speaking) and move out of the relegation zone. Two impressive fixtures against Aston Villa (2-1) and Norwich (1-0) will have roused the belief within his squad that an escape is now a strong possibility.
This mood will be buoyed by Norwich's freefall act. Should Fulham sneak a win at Spurs and Norwich lose to Liverpool at Carrow Road, then, psychologically at least, the momentum will be with them. Especially as the Canaries then play Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal - top teams with everything to play for.
Spurs, meanwhile, are a team with very little to play for. Last week's shocking start against a poor West Brom side was a) evidence to the more sarcastic Spurs support that Daniel Levy has instructed his club to avoid Europa League qualification (a joke, Daniel, a joke), and b) indicative of their form under Tim Sherwood.
Given that Spurs have shipped sloppy, early goals on several occasions in 2014, it's easy to imagine the starting XI eating cream buns and guzzling hot chocolate in the dressing room before games rather than running through any last-minute tactical briefings.
This is a chance for some personnel to prove their worth to whichever manager (Van Gaal, Pochettino, Klopp; less thrillingly Benitez) is watching them from afar with a view to taking over next season.
It's obvious that some of the signings from their Gareth Bale-funded summer splurge have worked better than others. Christian Eriksen has been a thrilling capture, Etienne Capoue less so.
But with a big-name boss coming in, a hard shift in the coming weeks will score some serious brownie points. Those not pulling their weight might be the first away from White Hart Lane after the World Cup.
Erik Lamela is a permanent medical concern these days, Roberto Soldado is returning from a hamstring injury and Capoue and Mousa Dembele have been troubled by knocks in recent weeks. Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen are long-term worries. For Fulham, the vibrant Lewis Holtby is ineligible to play against his parent club and Cauley Woodrow might be a doubt having missed the Norwich game through injury.
Player to watch: Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs)
Against West Brom, the Togolese had a shocker, looking for the most part as if he would prefer to be anywhere else than The Hawthorns. His missed penalty in the first half was his negative form encapsulated - sloppy, slow-witted. On view was the player that has frustrated so many during his topsy-turvy career.
Given his renaissance-man persona this season, it's likely that Adebayor's lethargic mood will be short-lived. In a fast-paced London derby against the senior back-line of Johnny Heitinga and Brede Hangeland, he could enjoy some serious profit, particularly if Eriksen is at his lock-picking best. Salutes at the ready.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Fulham 1-2 Spurs (Prem, Dec 13)
- Spurs 0-1 Fulham (Prem, Mar 13)
- Fulham 0-3 Spurs (Prem, Dec 12)
- Spurs 2-0 Fulham (Prem, May 12)
- Fulham 1-3 Spurs (Prem, Nov 11)
How often do you hear relegation-threatened managers praising their good fortune? Not a lot, unless they're Magath. "It was dramatic, but we were very lucky," he said following the weekend's victory. "Norwich were the better team and they played very well. We were not as good as last week because the players felt a lot of pressure for this game. But the win and the three points is all that matters at this stage." Luck certainly wasn't on Sherwood's side last week. Given Spurs' disastrous start against West Brom, many fans were left wondering if the political shenanigans surrounding his imminent departure - plus the talk of replacements - had destabilised both him and his players.
Sherwood is a more resilient figure than most, though. His team's dramatic three-goal comeback was a reflection of the manager's aggressive spirit, rather than any tactical ingenuity.
Facts and figures
- Spurs have won 7 of their last 8 league meetings with Fulham.
- Fulham have lost 7 of 8 trips to the top-half sides this season with 6 defeats by more than 1 goal.
- Fulham have lost the second half in 7 of their 8 trips to top-half teams.
- Spurs have won the second half in 8 of their last 12 home games against bottom-six teams.
Spurs to give away a sloppy, early goal (deja vu anyone?) before winning 3-1.