Aston Villa v Tottenham, Premier League, November 28, 2009
Unlike the over-hyped Super Sunday clashes of the Big Four, Saturday sees a six-pointer within the mini-league of the chasing pack as Spurs and Villa gear up for a six-pointer of those dreaming of crashing the Champions League party.
On paper there is barely a fag paper separating the sides. The pair sit just three points apart in the league, and recent history can also barely separate them. Since August 2000, Villa have won six meetings compared to Spurs’ five, alongside seven draws (including that memorable 4-all draw) out of a total of 18 games. Honours were also even last season, with both teams winning 2-1 away from home.
Villa are looking very strong at home this season and have still maintained the impressive record of scoring in every game since that woeful loss to Wigan on the opening day of the season. Add to that the scalp of Chelsea, the draw against Manchester City and the win at Liverpool and Martin Oâ€™Neillâ€™s men appear to be heading in the right direction.
Tottenham on the other hand, have fared worse against big team rivals. A 3-nil loss to Arsenal, a 3-1 loss to Manchester United and a 3-nil loss to Chelsea is hardly awe inspiring. But on the flipside they did beat Liverpool and after their barnstorming display against Wigan the Lilywhites will be rightly full of confidence.
All over the park the teams look evenly matched too.
Both Spurs and Villa excel in the wide areas; the North Londoners have the flying Aaron Lennon (4/1 to score) and the trickier Niko Kranjcar (11/1 to score first), while the Midlanders can boast Ashley Young (11/2 to score & Villa win), down there left wing while James Milner, arguably Villa’s player of the season so far, is a constant threat down the right.
O’Neill’s midfield options have also swelled in recent days after Stewart Downing (14/1 to score last) made his long awaited debut against Burnley last time out. The Â£12million signing may not start from the off as he is slowly regaining his match fitness, by should the Villains need his services, the England international could likely come off the bench.
In the strikers department, should Peter Crouch (11/1 to score a brace) keep his place, he and John Carew will offer similar aerial threat at opposite end of the pitch. Their partners in crime, Jermain Defoe (8/1 to score & Spurs win) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (9/1 to score & Villa win), will add the pace and movement to the respective attacks.
The one main headache for Villa concerns the fitness of centre half James Collins. The Welshman missed the last two games against Bolton and Burnley with a groin strain and his inclusion against Spurs will probably be a late call. Should he miss out, Carlos Cuellar will likely partner Richard Dunne at the heart of the home defence.
Tottenham, by contrast, have no major injury worries to speak of, and Ledley King could even make an appearance after missing the 9-1 thrashing of the Latics.
101predicts: Aston Villa 1 – Tottenham 2 (15/2)
Full match odds here.