Tottenham v Bolton, Premier League, May 1, 2010
â€œTottenham are favourites for the fourth place because they are in that position already. And they showed how good they can be against Arsenal and Chelsea. But I would like to think they will have a tough game against us.â€ â€“ Owen Coyle.
“It will be a tough game as well. Bolton caused Chelsea all sorts of problems recently and then went and won at Stoke and we all know how hard it is to get anything at the Britannia. You can’t underestimate how dangerous opponents Bolton are but we’ve been in fantastic form, seven wins in our last nine games, and we’ve played some superb football at White Hart Lane this season. Fourth place would cap it all and would be a great achievement. We all want to do it for the fans – and they can play their part as well against Bolton.” â€“ Harry Redknapp.
Heading into the final eight days of the 2009/2010 Premier League season, Spurs face, on paper at least, the easiest fixture of all their top four rivals this weekend. Tottenham are clear favourites to secure all three points at White Hart Lane on Saturday and can then assess what damage Aston Villa and Manchester City did to each other at Eastlands and how Liverpool fare on Sunday against Chelsea.
Leaving aside what looks likely to be a winner-takes-all clash at Manchester City on Wednesday, if Spurs see off Bolton and Burnley in two of their other three remaining fixtures of the season they are guaranteed to finish above both Aston Villa and Liverpool.
It has been a topsy turvy few weeks for Tottenham with sensational wins over Arsenal and Chelsea preceded by the shock FA Cup semi-final defeat to Portsmouth and then a disappointing display at Old Trafford last week. Harry Redknapp took a fair amount of flak for his team selection last week following the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United and there are no shortage of decisions to make for this match.
We can expect Gareth Bale to be restored to a left-sided midfield position with Benoit Assou Ekotto, who was heavily exposed at right back last week, likely returning to play left back. Younes Kaboul or Vedran Corluka if fit should play on the right and Sebastien Bassong also looks set for a recall as Ledley King will surely be saved for the midweek trip to Manchester.
Wilson Palacios was another player to disappoint at United last week but his physical qualities will be key against a tough Bolton side and Redknapp has all four strikers available. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe struggled to make much impact last week and â€˜Arry may well revert to the tried and tested partnership of Peter Crouch and Defoe. Aaron Lennon will also be pushing for his first start since December after his cameo appearance at Manchester United. (1.86 to be over three goals, 1.90 to be under.)
Bolton come into this fixture with little to play for as the relegation places are all but sown up and the best Owen Coyle can hope for is holding on to their current position of 14. Searching for targets, striker Kevin Davies has said he is hoping to score in the remaining games to beat Matt Taylor and Gary Cahill in the race to be top goal scorer at the Reebok Stadium.
Davies and Taylor are currently on eight goals which is a fair indication of why Bolton have hardly set the Premier League alight this season but the former has a terrific record against Spurs and has already netted twice against Spurs this season. Elsewhere in the side, young loanee wingers Jack Wilshere and Vladimir Weiss will be eager to puncture the home sides Champions League hopes, the former for Arsenal fans and the latter for Manchester City.
Besides the exciting young starlets, Bolton have plenty of players that can cause Spurs problems including Matt Taylor, who scored twice recently at Stoke, and a host of players who can keep it tight at the back. The Trotters have played Spurs already three times this season and the top four challenges have only won once, in an FA Cup replay, and that was against a weakened side.
Tottenham fans have pointed to home defeats to the likes of Stoke and Wolves this season as proof that Harry Redknappâ€™s side can lose to anyone despite having conceded the joint least amount of goals at home of any team in the league this season. In addition, Spurs have an almost identical goal difference to Manchester City and would give themselves an advantage by putting a big win on the board.
But Bolton should play with freedom at White Hart Lane and Spurs often make things a little nervy. There are many parallels with a fixture played four years and one day ago. Tottenham saw off Bolton 1-0 on April 30, 2006, in what was also the last home fixture for the Lillywhites in that campaign. Aaron Lennon grabbed the only goal on the hour to hold on to fourth place before heading to West Ham and the famous Lasagne-gate incident that handed the final Champions League place to Arsenal on the final day.
A similarly nervous victory should see Spurs start off the most important eight days of the season in a positive manner.
101gg predicts: Tottenham 2 â€“ Bolton 1 (6.31)