Wolves v Tottenham, Premier League, March 6, 2011
By John Toner
TheÂ second Sunday gameÂ is one of its most important as Wolves host Tottenham Hotspur at Molineux.
It may not quite have the glamour of the Liverpool v Manchester United fixture preceding it but is every bit as important in terms of who goes down and who goes forth.
Spurs go into the game needing a win despite having only lost once in their last six league games. After the 3-1 loss away to Blackpool and Chelseaâ€™s victory over Manchester United on Tuesday, they find themselves fifth in the table and out of the Champions League spots. The defeat by Blackpool was as unfortunate as it was inept, despite fashioning an immense amount of chances on goal they simply couldnâ€™t get past the opposition. That will be in the back of the playerâ€™s minds as well as the awareness that a repeat of such profligacy will heap yet more pressure on them.
Wolvesâ€™ form this season has been bizarre. Theyâ€™ve beaten Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and most recently league leaders Manchester United yet have managed to lose on no fewer than 16 occasions meaning they find themselves very much in a relegation dogfight. Their last fixture was an impressive 4-0 tonking of Blackpool which will provide a significant mental boost for this one.
Gareth Baleâ€™s slow recovery from a back injury means he will miss the game for Tottenham along with Rafael Van Der Vaart whoâ€™s struggling with a calf problem. Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King have returned to training following injury but the game will come too soon for them to take part. Vedran Corluka (ankle), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Younes Kaboul (knee) remain sidelined however Jermaine Defoe could be in line for a surprise return as his ankle ligament damage is nowhere near as bad as first thought.
Wolves have several players doubtful for the game with Ronald Zubar (back) Steven Mouyakolo (knee) David Jones and David Edwards (both leg) all touch and go for the fixture. Adam Hammill has returned to training and could feature, also back in training is Michael Kightly however Sunday looks to be too soon for him to return. Definitely not taking part are Michael Mancienne (knee) and AdlÃ¨ne Guedioura (broken leg) who remain out of action long term as well as Jamie Oâ€™Hara who will be unavailable to face his parent club as part of his loan deal.
For Wolves this game represents a massive opportunity to pick up three precious points. Not only are Spurs shorn of two potent attacking weapons in Bale and Van Der Vaart but the looming prospect of a Champions League last-16 2nd leg tie with AC Milan on Wednesday means Harry Redknapp and his staff will be desperate not to pick up more injuries and are vulnerable as a consequence. If Mick McCarthyâ€™s side can pull off a repeat of their smash and grab 1-0 win here last season they will take a massive step towards ensuring Premier League survival for another year.
Tottenham are now approaching the business end of the campaign where every fixture is vitally important. A win for Spurs is imperative if they are to maintain a push for next seasonâ€™s Champions League. Drop yet more points and it wonâ€™t be long before they find themselves too far adrift of the elite to gain access to Europeâ€™s premier competition for another year.
Tonerâ€™s Prediction: Wolves 1 – Tottenham Hotspur 3