Fulham v Tottenham, Premier League, December 26, 2009
Seemingly every preview for a Spurs match starts with the words â€œTottenhamâ€™s Champions League credentials will be tested…â€ but their visit to Craven Cottage really is such a game as Harry Redknappâ€™s side could send out a major signal of intent by beating one of the form teams in the Premier League.
Roy Hodgsonâ€™s exploits at Fulham are now generally recognised but it has to be reemphasised that the Cottagers have arguably been the most impressive side of the first half of the 2009/2010 Premier League season. Many pundits had expected them to struggle in the league due to their Europa League involvement but they are in ninth position, with a game in hand on Birmingham and Liverpool directly above them and safely through to the knockout stages of the second best competition in Europe.
With Italian managers now in vogue, Hodgson and Redknapp are the best placed English managers in the division, so it will be a battle of the 4-4-2s. Fulhamâ€™s success can be put down to some inspired bargain buys aligned with some great teamwork which means the home team can close out even the most talented of opponents.
Fulham gave a great illustration of this ability with a convincing 3-0 win (43/1) over champions Manchester United last time out, capping a couple of months of fine results. The west London side have lost just one Premier League game since defeat to Arsenal at the Cottage in September and ex-Spurs players Bobby Zamora (11/2 to score first) and Danny Murphy (11/2 to score) are in fine fettle.
Murphy was hugely influential last week, robbing Paul Scholes for the opener and the former Liverpool midfielder can cause havoc against teams that give him even a little bit of room. Zamora is in the best form of his career since his breakthrough at Brighton and he now has five goals in his last four matches.
The goals do not tell the full story though, Bobby Zâ€™s all round play has been key to a number of other Fulham players impressing this season. Zoltan Gera (5/1 to score), playing off the big target man and Damien Duff (9/2 to score) cutting in from the left have been two major beneficiaries of Zamoraâ€™s hold up play.
Spurs of course have their own big man up front and Peter Crouch (6/1 to score first) should start this match after his two goal haul at Blackburn last week. Harry Redknapp admitted after the game that this was a match Tottenham may well have lost in previous seasons and the defence was key to the victory with a resolute display at Ewood Park.
The defeat to Wolves two weeks ago and the revelations about the Spurs Christmas party do not seem to have damaged Tottenhamâ€™s push up the table. Niko Kranjcar (9/2 to score) has been influential in the wins over Manchester City and Blackburn and the central defensive pairing of Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong has looked solid.
Luka Modric and Ledley King are available for this match which proves the quality in the Tottenham squad. The last time Spurs visited Craven Cottage, Heurelho Gomes made a shocking error to gift Fulham the lead and the win for the home side punctured the early optimism brought by Harry Redknapp to the club. (Spurs are 13/5 to keep a clean sheet.)
Tottenham have a poor recent record against Fulham, having won just once in the league (a 5-1 win in December 2007) in their last seven Premier League matches. These sides drew 0-0 on Boxing Day a year ago (EVS under 2.5 goals) but in their current form, there should be goals and probably a winner in this one.
101gg predicts: Fulham 2 â€“ Tottenham 1 (12/1)
Full match odds here.