Sunderland v Tottenham, Premier League, April 3, 2010
â€œIâ€™m sure Darren [Bent] will be fired up for the visit of his old club. You always are when you go up against a team you used to play for. I think itâ€™s human nature â€“ you donâ€™t try to play the game any differently, you just canâ€™t help yourself at times. Youâ€™re always trying to make some sort of point when it comes to a former club. But Darren has got nothing to prove to himself or to anyone else. The goals heâ€™s scored this season speak for themselves.â€ â€“ Steve Bruce.
“If we get those three points then we’d have done our job over the last six games and built great momentum going into the Cup semi-final and the three massive league games that will be in front of us. To win five on the trot at this time of year is massively important, and we’ve done it despite injuries to key players – so you couldn’t ask for more.â€ â€“ Niko Kranjcar.
As the Croatian playmaker points out, this is a massive game for Spurs in their quest for a Champions League spot this season. With only seven games remaining of the season and as they still have to face the top three and Manchester City, a win is imperative at the Stadium of Light.
Wins for Liverpool and Manchester City following Spursâ€™ victory over Portsmouth last Saturday mean that despite five successive victories in the league, Harry Redknappâ€™s side cannot afford to rest on their laurels. This game is further spiced up by Darren Bent who will be aiming to score against his former club and a manager who publicly ridiculed him last season.
Redknapp famously said his wife Sandra could have scored a sitter missed by Bent against Portsmouth last season and it was no surprise that the former Ipswich and Charlton striker moved on in the summer. Bent has been an unmitigated success at Sunderland having scored almost half their Premier League goals, 20 out of a total of 41.
Bent will also be keen to avenge Sunderlandâ€™s 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane in November. He saw his penalty saved at 1-0 by Heurelho Gomes and the Mackems failed to take all three points from a game they dominated. Besides his personal motivation Bent will be eager to prove he is worthy of a place in the England World Cup squad as he aims to impress opposite both Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe who seem certainties to be part of Fabio Capelloâ€™s World Cup squad.
The Sunderland number 11 is not the only former Tottenham player eager to derail their former sideâ€™s Champions League hopes. Steed Malbranque and Frazier Campbell have performed well in Sunderlandâ€™s recent mini revival before defeat at Liverpool last week. Andy Reid misses out through injury and Alan Hutton is ineligible to play against his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal. Goalkeeper Marton Fulop is also unlikely to appear, such has been the incredible form of Craig Gordon lately.
The big team news for Spurs is the return of Jermain Defoe following a hamstring tear. He will likely partner Peter Crouch up front although Redknapp may not be able to ignore Roman Pavlyuchenko who has been scoring for fun. Michael Dawson has overcome the achilles injury that saw him substituted in the win over Portsmouth and â€˜Arry will also have to decide where best to start Gareth Bale on the left hand side.
Tottenham are aiming for a Premier League record of six successive wins and a victory at the Stadium of Light, where Sunderland have only lost twice this season and are unbeaten in 2010, would be yet another statement of intent.
It would be no surprise if Darren Bent scored against his former club and but for their great recent form many of the omens point to Spurs struggling. The north London side have failed to win in their last four visits to the Stadium of Light and last season needed a late goal from Robbie Keane to secure a draw.
101gg predicts: Sunderland 1 â€“ Tottenham 1 (6.32)