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Can Spurs Become True Title Contenders On Saturday?

I saw a stat on Twitter earlier which I quickly passed on to my WhatsApp group, which is full of Gooners, Chelsea and Millwall fans. Basically, they all hate Spurs.

@BBCSport: Spurs have conceded the fewest of any team in Europe’s top five leagues so far this season.

I was quickly shot down, ‘You’ve played Cardiff and Palace and a load of teams with made up names that aren’t even proper football clubs in the Europa League.’

While that all may be true, Tottenham have started the season in impression fashion. The defeat at Arsenal, a game which arguably came too soon for this new group of players, is the only blip on Spurs record thus far this campaign. With Arsenal sitting top of the table, it doesn’t seem like such a terrible loss, albeit a painful blow for any Spurs fan to take.

So this Saturday at 12:45pm we kick off against Chelsea. This is the first time that I can remember the top online bookmakers putting Spurs in as favourites for a match against the Blues. Tottenham have a woeful overall record against Chelsea in the last couple of decades but, things have certainly improved in recent times with the home side having lost just five of the last fourteen encounters.

Although Chelsea returned to winning ways against Fulham last time, they aren’t exactly on fire. Jose Mourinho’s men have scored just six goals in their opening five matches which is their joint-lowest return at this stage during the last eighteen years. Admittedly, they are only two points off Tottenham and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table and a win at White Hart Lane would see them reach the helm at least temporarily.

This could be one of the defining games of Tottenham’s season and Andre Villas-Boas career as a manager. No matter what he is telling the media in the run up to this game, victory over Mourinho and his former club Chelsea would mean everything to him. Spurs have had a number of false dawns before but this is for me the best squad of players we have had since the Premier League began. Whatever the result, I just hope the players go out there with no fear and play with the freedom, passion and ruthlessness they have shown in recent weeks.

Can it still be done?!

One of the worst feelings in football is having to rely on another team doing you a favour in a game you’re not involved in. That’s exactly what we need from Newcastle this weekend as our nervous battle for a Champions League place reaches its conclusion. Tottenham have what is arguably the easier fixture on paper as they face Sunderland at White Hart Lane, while bitter rivals Arsenal travel to the Sports Direct Arena to take on Newcastle. Should both London sides manage to secure three points in their respective games, it will be Arsenal and not Tottenham competing in the 2013/14 Champions League.

The bookmakers have Spurs as the strong 3/10 favourites for their match against Sunderland. Arsenal are put in at a best price of 4/7. If you’re having a bet this weekend, you can check out available odds at Topbet.eu. Everything points to both of the Champions League hopefuls getting the job done against their Northern opponents, with both Sunderland and Newcastle having nothing to play for after they managed to avoid the dreaded relegation zone. Arsenal are long odds on favourites to take this season’s final Champions League spot and only the brave will be backing Spurs as things stand.

Following the unfair way in which Tottenham Hotspur missed out on Europe’s elite competition last season, it would be awful for Andre Villas-Boas side if they one against end up in the Europa League. The financial implications are one thing, Gareth Bale moving on is another and possibly most important of all, Spurs qualifying would mean Arsenal do not! In a way, Tottenham only have themselves to blame. A top four finish looked to be in the bag following the excellent 2-1 victory over the Gunners back in March, but poor results since, particularly at home, mean that Arsenal fans are more the more likely to be bragging come Sunday evening. I’ll live in hope until just before 6pm that day, but confident I am not.

Tottenham v Southampton Preview

One of the biggest games in Tottenham’s season this Saturday as Southampton visit White Hart Lane. With the Saints now looking safe from relegation, all the pressure is one the home side to secure the three points and make the most of their game in hand over Arsenal. The Gunners could only manage a draw against Manchester United this past Sunday and although that would have been a good result in normal circumstances, neither side can afford to be dropping points at home.

Spurs go into the match with Southampton on the back of a fairly positive result after gaining a point away to Wigan. Andre Villas-Boas side should arguably have won that match when you look at the league table, but Wigan are fighting for their Premier League lives at the moment and will be very difficult to beat for the remainder of the campaign. Southampton arrive in London off the back of one of their worst defeats of their season, a 3-0 home reverse at the hands of West Brom. Spurs fans will be hoping that their opponents this weekend already have one eye on their summer holidays and that the Lillywhites can take full advantage.

Although Spurs have had their injury list eased somewhat in recent weeks, they do have a couple of fresh concerns following last weekend, with both Mousa Dembele and Younes Kaboul picking up knocks. The Tottenham manager is hopeful that both players can be involved in this Saturday’s all important clash. Danny Fox and Gaston Ramirez are both suspended for the remainder of Southampton’s games this season and will be a big miss for the South Coast club.

Bookies seem to be strongly favoring Spurs at the minute, with odds at $1.44 – (£.95) at time of writing (TAB). It’s understandable that Spurs have been been in as favourites, but I personally don’t think it will be as straightforward as the bookmakers believe. Tottenham have struggled at home at times during Villas-Boas first year in charge and they have often looked more relaxed and clinical on the road. I’m hopeful that Bale and co can run out winners and I fancy a hard fought 2-1 victory for Spurs.

Have the PFA Awards Sealed Gareth Bale’s Exit?

Gareth Bale achieved an amazing PFA double last night when landing both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards. He becomes only the third player to win both accolades in the same season, and the first since Christiano Ronaldo in 2007. With Spurs’ chances of playing Champions League football next season still hanging in the balance, will the Welsh wonder now be on his way out of White Hart Lane?

Not since Ronaldo at Manchester United has the Premier League seen a player with such impact and who can turn games so quickly, something I’m sure In play betting punters will have benefited from this season. I’ve lost count of the number of games that Bale has rescued for Tottenham during this campaign and to lose a player of this calibre could really hurt the progress of the club for years to come.

Real Madrid are being touted as the favourites to land Gareth Bale’s signature, with the bookies installing the Spanish giants at odds of 6/4. Madrid have endured a tough season, lying a long way behind Barcelona in the race for the title and looking likely to exit the Champions League at the semi final stage. A marquee signing the quality of Bale would go a long way to appeasing the disgruntled fans and he’d definitely be a great addition to their squad.

Daniel Levy isn’t likely to let his prize asset leave on the cheap as his previous negotiations with player sales demonstrate. Transfer fees around the £100m mark have been mentioned and any offer around that kind of figure would definitely be hard to refuse. I’m obviously still hopefully Andre Villas-Boas men can win their remaining fixtures and secure a top four finish but I still don’t believe that will guarantee that Bale will begin next season in a Tottenham shirt.

Not the Spurs of Old

I thought that was going to be the most painful result of the season thus far. To hammer the league leaders like that and come away with nothing from the game would have been extremely hard to take. While the first half was a bit more even, Spurs absolutely dominated Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in the second and although it looked as if it would be another setback for Tottenham in their bid to become one of the established big four, that turned out not to be the case.

Admittedly, Manchester United have been leaking goals this season. I doubt that their approach to games is ‘if you score three, we’ll get four’ but that seems to be the way a number of their matches are working out. This was not the case at White Hart Lane yesterday. Their game plan was undoubtedly to nullify Tottenham’s biggest threats keeping the ball and squeezing the midfield when losing possession. This worked up to a point early in the game and Robin Van Persie’s goal was textbook but those eleven players could not stop Tottenham from having the bulk of the game.

The introduction of Tom Huddlestone reminded me of the online Super Bowl XLVII betting I’d been looking at earlier in the day rather than make me think he’d be a game changer for us. For anyone interested in the upcoming NFL showpiece on 3rd February, you can get plenty of Superbowl 2013 information online. While the injury to Sandro is very disappointing, it was fantastic to see Scott Parker back in the fold and I don’t think you could ask for a much better replacement.

Two tough away fixtures await Andre Villas Boas men in the coming weeks but going on this performance, we should approach those matches in a positive frame of mind and continue the push for Champions League football next season. In seasons gone by, I’d never expect Tottenham to have enough about them to come back from 1-0 down against Utd, but I genuinely believe things are changing and the best is yet to come from this young side.

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Spurs face Liverpool tonight in what has the potential to be a thrilling encounter at White Hart Lane. Spurs are coming off the back of a very impressive performance when beating West Ham on Sunday and should be full of confidence coming into this encounter. Liverpool should also come into the match in positive mood as they are now on a run of eight games unbeaten following a very slow start to the season.

Andre Villas Boas has been under a tremendous amount of pressure since his arrival at Tottenham and three league defeats on the trot certainly didn’t do anything to alleviate that. The results against Arsenal and Man City were unfortunate but excusable, it was the defeat at the hands of Wigan on home soil that really hurt the home fans. Spurs haven’t quite hit the heights at the Lane thus far during this campaign but did look to be approaching somewhere near their best with Sunday’s victory over the Hammers.

Brendan Rodgers is in a similar position to Villas Boas in that they are both at clubs with huge expectations and are both going to struggle to deliver the Champions League football that their fans crave so desperately. Things did look pretty dire for Liverpool at the beginning of the season with no wins in their first five league games but things have steadily improved under the former Swansea coach. They are undefeated since losing to Manchester United at the back end of September and it’s going to take a good Tottenham performance for that to change.

Tottenham are still without Scott Parker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul due to their long term injuries, while Emmanuel Adebayor continues his suspension. The good news for the home side is that Sandro has been passed as fit to play after being stretchered off against West Ham. He’s a crucial part of the Spurs midfield and could be the difference maker at White Hart Lane this evening. Liverpool have no serious injury concerns.

This is an important game for Andre Villas-Boas’ men. They face trips to Fulham and Everton in their next two games so three points here are much needed. If Spurs can reproduce the form they showed in their most recent win, I think it should go the way of the home side, and a 1-0 score line would not surprise me. Check out CarbonSports Sportsbook before betting on tonight’s big match.

Maribor

Hopefully this won’t be as Mariboring as the game two weeks ago in Slovenia, as Spurs host Europa League opponents Maribor at White Hart Lane in the return fixture this evening. On that occasion, Tottenham laboured to a 1-1 and actually went a goal down to a side they shouldn’t have any problems seeing off at home, but will it be as easy as that?

The atmosphere at the Lane is sure to be electric tonight thanks to The Fighting Cock boys and their 1882 movement taking over block in the East Upper. I was lucky enough to go to their first stab at this which took place at Charlton. Basically, you just sing and jump around for 90mins, no matter what is happening on the pitch. No booing, no jeering, just support the shirt. It’s a fantastic idea and a great experience if you can get to the game.

As far as tonight’s match is concerned, it would be a real shock for me if Tottenham can’t get the job done in convincing fashion. While it does appear to be home matches where Spurs have struggled most this season, Maribor don’t realistically present much of a threat, especially if their performance in our previous encounter is anything to go bad. Yes, we did concede a goal but it was totally against the run of play and even though it was one of their worst games of the campaign thus far, AVB’s side still looked head and shoulders above their opponents.

Tottenham are the overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers at a general price of 3/10, Maribor are on offer at a best price of 11/1, while the draw is available at 5/1. I’d personally be looking at Tottenham on the half time/full time market or to cover the handicap. Before placing a bet, it’s a good idea to check sportsbook reviews to get the best odds and bookmaker offers.

Is Jermain Defoe up to the Task?

There is always much debate surrounding the merits of Jermain Defoe. Twitter is awash with comments about him being a flat track bully and is nothing more than an impact sub. While I agree with some of the criticism levelled at him, I don’t think Defoe has had enough opportunities at Tottenham to judge him without some level of doubt. If given the chance to lead the line for a full season, would he be able to produce sufficient quality performances and ultimately goals?

Defoe scored the winning goal for England last night and was well backed by the betting public to get on the score sheet. Sportsbook reviews and more sports information on Defoe’s chances of scoring against the Toon Army this weekend tell us he is amongst the favourites to net again. However, I’m sure a large proportion of the Spurs faithful wouldn’t dream of backing him to get the winner away from White Hart Lane.

While some aspects of his personal life are questionable, Defoe has suffered multiple personal tragedies over the last few years but he has continued to be a model professional where Tottenham are concerned. Jermain has never quite hit the heights expected of him earlier in his career and at 29 years of age, it’s now or never as far as fulfilling this promise is concerned. With Spurs light on strikers currently, Defoe has the perfect opportunity to prove all the doubters wrong and become AVB’s main man. It will be interesting to see whether Villas Boas gives him the opportunities that Redknapp did not.

I accept that some of his all round play is lacking, but what Jermain Defoe is all about is goals. If he’s finding the back of the net with enough regularity, the rest quite simply won’t matter. Given a decent run in the side this season, I’m confident that the man who is arguably the best finisher in the Premier League can play a key role in helping Tottenham to achieve great things.

7 Players Signed By Spurs In the January Transfer Window

Since the transfer window came into force during the 2002-03 season, Spurs have been one of the most active clubs in terms of players arriving at and leaving White Hart Lane.

After a fairly quiet window by their standards – signing trio Yago Falque, Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen all on free transfers, let’s take a look at seven players signed for big money during the January period.

7. Andy Reid
Signed from Nottingham Forest for £4 million (2005)

After building a reputation as one of the most talented players outside the Premier League, Reid joined Spurs in a £4 million move in 2005. He impressed on his debut, a 3-1 victory against Portsmouth, but struggled to recapture the form that persuaded Martin Jol to sign him. He made just 26 appearances in 18 frustrating months at White Hart Lane, scoring once in a 5-1 victory against Aston Villa at the end of the 2004-05 campaign. Reid is now back at Forest after spells at Charlton Athletic, Sunderland, Sheffield United and Blackpool.

6. Michael Dawson
Signed from Nottingham Forest for £4 million (2005)

While Reid failed to make an impact at Spurs, Dawson, who joined at the same time, is now in his eighth season at the club. The defender has had mixed fortunes, playing a key role during the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons but then finding himself out of favour when the likes of Jonathan Woodgate arrived in 2008-09 and again when Sebastien Bassong joined in 2009-10. But, it was that season where Dawson really made a name for himself. He found himself back in the side after Woodgate and Ledley King were injured and was named captain when Robbie Keane left for Celtic. He was part of the England’s World Cup squad and was named Spurs Player of the Year. Fast approaching 250 club appearances, Dawson could be remembered as an all-time great.

5. Younes Kaboul
Signed from Portsmouth for £9.5 million (2010)

The first of three players to have been signed, sold and re-signed by Spurs, Kaboul returned to White Hart Lane in 2010. He was said to be a “late developer” by manager Harry Redknapp and that he was “much improved” upon his return to the club. Kaboul was key in the winning goal against Manchester City which secured Champions League football for the first time for Spurs – he crossed in the ball that was parried into the path of scorer Peter Crouch. He later went on to score the winning goal against Arsenal after Spurs trailed 2-0 at half-time.

4. Alan Hutton
Signed from Rangers for £9 million (2008)

Hutton is an example of a big-money signing that didn’t really work out for the club. He was restricted to just 40 appearances during two years at White Hart Lane and was sent out on loan to Sunderland during the 2010 January window. The Black Cats were keen on a permanent deal but were not prepared to pay what Spurs were asking. Hutton joined Aston Villa last summer on a permanent transfer and linked up again with Alex McLeish, his manager at Rangers.

3. Wilson Palacios
Signed from Stoke City for £12 million (2009)

Palacios attracted plenty of attention during his time at Wigan Athletic and he sealed a big-money move during the 2009 transfer window, a period where Spurs were splashing the cash like a “hot tip” fuelled punter at a free bets website. He won Man of the Match in just his second appearance for the club following a battling display in the goalless draw against Arsenal and scored his first goal not just for Spurs, but in English football, against Hull City in August 2009. Palacios was a mainstay in the Spurs midfield during the 2009-10 season but was restricted to just 21 league appearances in the 2010-11 campaign – but made a big contribution to Spurs journey to the quarter finals of the Champions League. He joined Stoke City in a £6 million deal in August 2011.

2. Robbie Keane
Signed from Liverpool for £14 million (2009)

During his first spell at Spurs which lasted six season, Keane scored 107 goals in 254 appearances in all competitions. His move to Liverpool lasted just six months before he returned to White Hart Lane in January 2009. This move prompted an advertisement by Virgin Trains to use the slogan: “A Liverpool to London return faster than Robbie Keane”. He scored four goals in 15 Premier League appearances on his return, including a consolation against Liverpool and six in 20 during the first half of the 2009-10 campaign before joining Celtic on loan in the 2010 January window. Keane then joined West Ham United on loan during the 2011 January window and then Aston Villa on loan during the 2012 window – this time from Los Angeles Galaxy.

1. Jermaine Defoe
Signed from Portsmouth for £15.75 million (2009)
Signed from West Ham United for £7 million (2004)

Jermaine Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur and the January Transfer Window is an irresistible combination and saw big money moves in both the 2004 and 2009 windows. After arriving at White Hart Lane from West Ham United, Defoe scored 64 goals in 177 appearances in all competitions but was sold to Portsmouth during the 2008 January window for £6 million. After just one year at Fratton Park, Defoe rejoined Spurs in a £15.75 million deal and scored against his former employers in a 1-1 draw in 18 January. The striker netted three goals in his first four matches before injury meant for the for the second time under manager Harry Redknapp, Defoe would miss a Wembley final – the FA Cup in 2008 and Carling Cup in 2009. Now in his fourth season since his return, Defoe has scored 48 goals in 106 appearances in all competitions, taking his grand Spurs total to 112 goals in 283 games.

Mind The Gap – The Reason Behind the Power Shift

The ten point advantage Tottenham currently have over Arsenal in the Premier League would have been unthinkable just a couple of seasons ago. Although Arsenal fans were calling for Arsene Wenger’s head after a bad start to the season, things seemed to have settled down on that front with the good run of form they put together following the 2-1 defeat the Gunners suffered at White Hart Lane. Now reality has finally set in, Wenger’s management skills are once again being called into question by their supporters.

In stark contrast, Harry Redknapp’s reputation continues to thrive not only among Spurs fans, but also football enthusiasts around the globe. Bringing Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor to the club this season only added to what was already an excellent squad of players. Not only have Harry’s player purchases been very astute, he has also helped Gareth Bale become one of the best footballers in the world. He is able to instil a belief in players that Wenger cannot. Another great example of this is Benoit Assou-Ekotto. He was going nowhere fast at Tottenham but Redknapp spotted his potential and gave the former Lens man a chance. Ekotto is now one of the very best left backs the Premier League has to offer.

While the 5-1 cup victory in 2008 was a sign of things to come, the day when the power really shifted in North London was 20th November 2010. Spurs had not won at Arsenal for 17 years. Going 2-0 down before half time would have seen Tottenham sides of old throw the towel in, but this set of players were not prepared to lie down. Winning the game in such a manner gave Spurs a new found confidence and helped enforce the never say die attitude that has seen us become serious title contenders this season.

There are a couple of games during this campaign that really illustrate the difference between the two teams perfectly. Both were defeats, our 2-1 reverse away to Stoke, and Arsenal’s 3-2 loss at Swansea. Admittedly, the game at the Liberty Stadium was very entertaining and all credit to Swansea for playing some great football, but a number of the Arsenal players on that pitch looked like they did not want to be there. It ultimately ended with the man Arsenal fans were hailing as the King a few days earlier, a 34 year old Thierry Henry, turning on them for venting their frustrations.

At Stoke, Spurs were not at their best in the first half. Any team two goals behind at the Britannia Stadium would probably have resigned themselves to defeat. In the end, it was only one of the worst refereeing performances in Premier League history that cost us all three points. Every Spurs player gave their all in that second half to try and get something from the game and even though we lost the match, it is possibly my favourite Tottenham performance of the season. It goes a long way to showing why Tottenham are now the dominant team in North London and why you’d better mind that gap.