Tottenham v Portsmouth, Premier League, March 27, 2010
Hugely differing fortunes in midweek for both sides have left Tottenham red hot favourites to beat Portsmouth on Saturday and cement their challenge for fourth spot. (Spurs are 2.00 to win the without top four league.) Intrigue is added as this is a dress rehearsal of the FA Cup semi-final on April 11 (with a practice run of the other semi-final also being played out at Stamford Bridge on Saturday).
Harry Redknapp is likely to be the centre of attention for the visit of his former club and whilst â€˜Arry isnâ€™t everyoneâ€™s cup of tea, his decisions in the FA Cup quarter-final win over Fulham were in his favourite phrase, â€œterrific.â€
Trailing at half-time, David Bentley scored within 120 seconds of coming on and then Roman Pavlyuchenko seven minutes after his introduction. Redknapp was also ultra positive throwing on the Russian sub for the injured Vedran Corluka as his last substitute with the possibility of extra time.
Not only do Spurs come into this match with the euphoria of their victory over the Cottagers but also having put together a fine run in the league. Four successive wins over Wigan, Everton, Blackburn and Stoke have given Tottenham a lead over their rivals for the coveted fourth spot and they need to get the points on the board before they play four of the top five teams in the country in their final five matches of the campaign.
Redknapp may have to re-jig his team further for Pompeyâ€™s visit following the injuries to Vedran Corluka and Sebatien Bassong in midweek. Younes Kaboul will likely come in and if the Croatian and Frenchman miss out, Tom Huddlestone could drop in to defence.
Further up the field there will be tough decisions galore with David Bentley pushing Niko Kranjcar for a start on the right after a fine cameo against the Cottagers. And Peter Crouch could well be left out for a strike force of Roman Pavlyuchenko (nine goals in his last seven games) and Eidur Gujhonsen (two in two). (1.54 to be over 2.5 goals, 2.21 to be under.)
Portsmouth on paper come into this fixture looking like cannon fodder following their 5-0 mauling at the hands of Chelsea. A warning for Spurs comes from Pompeyâ€™s ability to eke out results, for example the excellent late comeback against Hull, with two goals in the final minutes to secure a 3-2 win last Saturday.
But, with relegation all but assured following their nine point penalty, confidence is low, as was evidenced late on against the Blues on Wednesday. The task for Portsmouth is further complicated by the absence of Jamie Oâ€™Hara, arguably their best player this season who is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Aruna Dindane is also unlikely to feature as Portsmouth cannot afford the four million pound fee if he plays one more game. Kevin Prince Boateng, Pompeyâ€™s goal scorer in a 2-1 defeat to Spurs in October, is also out injured and we can only speculate as to the mindset of Avram Grantâ€™s players following the decision by the Premier League to allow the cash-strapped club the ability to sell players outside of the transfer window.
The brutal truth is that Portsmouth have very few players to sell, and Spurs have nicked most of them! Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Niko Kranjcar and Younes Kaboul have all swapped Fratton Park for White Hart Lane and with Ricardo Rocha and Tommy Smith picking up injuries against Chelsea, Grant has very few options.
Frederic Piquionne could be a physical threat up front and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie has shown he has pace and skill in his short spell at the club. (4.48 on Draw/Spurs.) Overall, this match looks like going only one way as Portsmouth have struggled away from home all season long. Perhaps only over confidence can stop Harry Redknapp and his side.
101gg predicts: Tottenham 3 â€“ Portsmouth 0 (7.92)