Tottenham v Fulham, FA Cup quarter-final replay, March 24, 2010
How badly do Fulham want to win the FA Cup?
After their tremendous efforts in the Europa League last Thursday night, where Fulham knocked fallen-giants Juventus out of the cup with an incredible 4-1 home win, the Cottagers fell back down to earth on Sunday with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Manchester City.
The defeat to City flagged up a bigger problem that may ultimately define the success of Fulham’s season. Currently playing two high-profile matches every week, the Cottagers thin squad is now being pushed to their limits, and in the run up to the Spurs match it is prudent to wonder how the Cottagers should best invest their resources in the final months of the season.
On the plus side for Fulham, Roy Hodgson looks like having a full-strength team to pick from. Brede Hangeland was rested for the 2-1 loss at home to Manchester City on Sunday, while Zoltan Gera and in-form striker Bobby Zamora were substituted early in the second half merely as a precautionary measure.
Elsewhere, Fulham are able to field their strongest spine possible with Mark Schwarzer and Aaron Hughes all at the back, Dickson Etuhu sitting in front of the defence, while Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey are available to offer support from midfield in the Cottagers’ attacking areas.
While Fulham almost have the luxury of picking and choosing their starting XI, life at Spurs is tougher. Harry Redknappâ€™s men are enjoying a fabulous season, particularly in their quest for fourth spot, but their injury problems are beginning to accumulate, with Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon, David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas and striker Jermain Defoe all on the sidelines.
Roman Pavlyuchenko is alsoÂ out after suffering a hamstring strain in the 2-1 win away to Stoke City at the weekend. With the Russian unavailable, Peter Crouch and Eider Gudjohnsen are the only fit strikers that Redknapp has at his disposal.
Even with all those injury concerns though, Spurs will feel confident of progressing through to the semi-finals, believing that they should still have enough quality in their squad to see off their London rivals.
In that respect, goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes deserves a mention. Having suffered a somewhat unimpressive start to his Tottenham career, the Brazilian goalkeeper is now showing form that backs up the Â£7 million Spurs paid PSV Eindhoven for his services. The Spurs stopper has kept an impressive nine clean sheets from 23 Premier League games so far this season, and, considering that Fulham have failed to score against Spurs in their last four meetings, Gomes will be hoping for another clean sheet this week. (1.83 to be over 2.5 goals, 1.86 to be under.)
Aside from Gomes, the upturn in form of Gareth Bale down the Spurs left has been considerable of late. Having been relieved of his defensive duties and employed more as an orthodox left-winger, the Welshman has been in super form in 2010 in which he has repeatedly torn down the left channel and consistently delivered dangerous balls in the box for his strikers to feed off of.
101gg predicts: Tottenham 0 – Fulham 1 (12.79)