West Ham v Tottenham, Barclays Asia Trophy, July 29, 2009
If the 49th game ever takes hold, fixtures like this will become far more common.
London neighbours Tottenham and West Ham have packed up their squads and travelled to the other side of the world as they prepare to headline the Barclays Asia Trophy in Beijing this week. Phil Brown’s Hull and Chinese Super League powerhouse Beijing Guoan are the other sides competing at the tournament.
The format of the competition is a straight forward knock-out, in which the winners of the Spurs-Hammers match will face either the Tigers or Beijing on Friday at the Workers Stadium in the Chinese capital.
After drawing with Barcelona but then losing to Celtic at the Wembley Cup, Harry Redknapp’s defensive frailties have now been flagged up for all to see. As is all too common for the Lilywhites, injuries have ravaged the Spurs backline with Jonathan Woodgate (groin strain), Ledley King (recurring knee injury) and Michael Dawson (damaged Achilles) all sidelined. (Spurs are 11/8 to keep a clean sheet.)
The trio’s likely absence in China may afford ‘Arry the opportunity to throw newly-purchased Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker straight into the mix after their joint move from Sheffield United last week.
Up front, Tottenham also have some problems. Robbie Keane is also reportedly carrying a groin injury and may be rested, leaving Darren Bent, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe (5/1 to score first) to spearhead the front line.
West Ham have pooled together a 23-man squad to travel Beijing as Gianfranco Zola looks to put his squad through their paces. Missing out on the trip is recently-fit midfielder Valon Behrami who, despite returning to training two weeks ago, will stay behind in London to work on his individual fitness programme along with Dean Ashton and Terry Dixon.
Zola will also have to contend will several players who are still slowly regaining their fitness this summer. After competing internationally, Jonathan Spector, James Tomkins and Mark Noble are all a week or so behind the rest of the squad in terms of fitness. Scott Parker is another who has only just returned to match action in recent days, while forgotten man Kieran Dyer (7/2 to score) will get another chance to prove that he has finally put his injury-plagued career behind him.
On the upside, newly purchased forward Luis Jimenez (10/3 to score) has made the trip to the Far East, while Jordan Spence and Bondz N’Gala are the only two travelling without first-team experience for the club.
101predicts: West Ham 1 – Tottenham 1 (11/2)
Full match odds here.