Tottenham v Portsmouth, FA Cup semi-final, April 11, 2010
The second Wembley semi-final of the weekend pits Harry Redknapp against the side he led to FA Cup glory in 2008 in what is expected to be a significant week for both teams in their respective seasons.
Portsmouthâ€™s relegation from the Premier League could be confirmed over the course of the weekend and the bottom side in the top English division come into this match as heavy underdogs. (Portsmouth are 17.00 to win the FA Cup.) Spurs (2.80 to win the cup) meanwhile play Arsenal and Chelsea in the week following this semi-final as their push for FA Cup glory and the chase for the fourth and final Champions League spot comes to the â€œsqueaky bum timeâ€ of the campaign.
The injury problems facing Israeli Avram Grant over the past few weeks have been increasing seemingly in every game. For the trip to Wembley though Pompey should have a host of players returning to give themselves a chance of an FA Cup fairytale.
Goalkeeper David James and full back Steve Finnan look set to return following injury lay-offs and both will add important experience of big games to the Portsmouth defence. Kevin Prince Boateng and Nadir Belhadj returned to training earlier this week and fellow injury doubts Papa Bouba Diop, Tommy Smith, Hayden Mullins and Hassan Yebda are also expected to be part of Grantâ€™s line-up.
Defenders Herman Hreidarsson and Tal Ben Haim are definitely out through injury and Marc Wilson is a doubt. To complete the lengthy Pompey team news Jamie Oâ€™Hara is ineligible to play against his parent club and Anthony Vanden Borre misses out after picking up a red card in the 0-0 draw with Blackburn last weekend. It would also be a surprise if Aruna Dindane played as the south coasters have to shell out four million pounds if he makes one more appearance.
Portsmouth do have a chance of causing an upset not least because no one knows how the Wembley turf will play out. (17.93 on Draw/Portsmouth.) The likes of Boateng, Belhadj and Frederic Piquionne have shown all season that they can threaten even the best defences in the league and for many Pompey players this will be a chance to put themselves in the shop window with a widespread summer cull an inevitability.
Aaron Lennonâ€™s return to the Tottenham squad has been welcomed following their chastening 3-1 defeat at Sunderland last week. Spurs have the hardest fixture list and the most injuries of all their rivals for a Champions League spot and they could have an understrength defence for this Wembley clash.
Michael Dawson missed the match at the Stadium of Light and the lack of his leadership and organisational qualities were a factor in the defeat. If Dawson is still out and with Ledley King unlikely to return, it seems that Redknapp may have just one fit and available central defender in Sebastien Bassong. As Vedran Corluka and Tom Huddlestone have also both succumbed to injury in recent weeks and Younes Kaboul and Kyle Walker are cup-tied.
Aside from the defensive issues though Spurs have all of their four strikers available and it seems likely that the former Pompey pair of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will get the nod to start at Wembley. Fellow ex-Portsmouth midfielder Niko Kranjcar will also be hoping to start and Luka Modric should continue in the middle if Huddlestone is still out. Gareth Bale has been Spursâ€™ main danger man in 2010 and his marauding runs down the left could be a key factor in the outcome of this match.
Tottenham may well have beaten Pompey twice this season but neither game was a stroll. At Fratton Park the home team were unlucky not to secure a draw with a dominating second half performance in Spursâ€™ 2-1 victory in October. The recent 2-0 win at White Hart Lane also saw Pompey create numerous chances only to founder when up against Heurelho Gomes and ex-players Crouch and Kranjcar who scored.
With Spurs possibly fielding a make-shift defence and this being the most important game of Portsmouthâ€™s season, this semi-final is set to be much closer than expected. Harry Redknapp will likely prevail but victory could rest on a moment of genius or a defensive error.
101gg predicts: Tottenham 2 â€“ Portsmouth 1 (6.18)