Why Tottenham versus Fulham in the FA Cup is too close to call (12/5 on the draw)

Fulham v Tottenham, FA Cup quarter-final, March 6, 2010

Fulham 9/4; Draw 12/5; Tottenham 7/5

One of the most enticing games of the FA Cup weekend sees Spurs travel to Fulham in an all London duel. The winner will fancy their chances of going all the way and Saturday’s game looks very hard to call. (Fulham are 12/1 to win the FA Cup, Spurs are 5/1.)

Fulham face a huge week and high profile matches against Tottenham and then Juventus next Thursday are indicative of what a good job Roy Hodgson has done at Craven Cottage. Overcoming Europa League holders Shakhtar Donetsk was surely the surprise of the last round and the Cottagers did not receive nearly enough credit for what was the major scalp of last year’s winners of the UEFA Cup. (Fulham are 21/1 to win the Europa League.)

Roy Hodgson’s side have faced some relatively easy games in the FA Cup so far this season, ties against Swindon, Acrrington Stanley and Notts County have been negotiated relatively easily. In all competitions the Cottagers have not tasted defeat in eight games and they would be in an even better position in the league but for a blip in the second half of January.

As they have been for much of the campaign, there is a real solidity in the Fulham side at the moment. The spine of the team including Mark Schwarzer in goal, the central defensive paring of Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland provide a solid base (Fulham are 14/5 to keep a clean sheet) for the likes of Danny Murphy, Zoltan Gera, Damien Duff and Bobby Zamora to make things happen. (Fulham are 11/4 to score in both halves.)

Murphy, Zamora and Davies will all be eager to impress against their former team and Fulham collectively will be eager to get one over Spurs after drawing at home on Boxing Day and losing at White Hart Lane in January. They arguably dominated the game at the Cottage and failed to show their true quality in the 2-0 defeat at Totttenham.

Harry Redknapp meanwhile has much to chew over, not least who will partner Wilson Palacios in the centre of the Spurs midfield. Tom Huddlestone sustained ankle ligament damage in the win over Everton last Sunday and with Jermaine Jenas out, Redknapp’s options are limited as was evidenced by the recall of youngster Jake Livermore from his loan spell at Peterborough earlier this week. (Tottenham are 85/40 to keep a clean sheet.)

Younes Kaboul filled in for Huddlestone in a far from convincing second half display by Spurs against Everton and with the French defender cup tied the clear option for Redknapp could be to move Luka Modric inside and see if the Croatian playmaker can be just as influential from the centre of the park.

The dilemma over who to play in midfield is supplemented by a more positive selection poser up front. Roman Pavlyuchenko is now a certain starter after six goals in his last three appearances and it would be a surprise if Jermain Defoe didn’t make the first XI. Two-goal England hero Peter Crouch is though often used for away games and his presence up front could be crucial for Spurs if they do struggle to hold the ball.

Injuries to Aaron Lennon and David Bentley could well have Redknapp trotting out his favourite “down to the bare bones” phrase but Spurs have benefitted this season from players coming in with something to prove. Pavlyuchenko is the obvious recent example and Gareth Bale has also come to the fore in the last couple of months and his displays have had many Tottenham fans wishing he was English. (Spurs are 7/1 to win both halves.)

Another defender to stand up and be counted is Michael Dawson, currently captaining the side. He said in the build-up to this match: “We went to Fulham on Boxing Day and whenever you go there it’s always tough, but we went there a few years ago in the FA Cup and had a good win. Hopefully we’ll have another good win there at the weekend, but we know it will be a difficult game.”

A 4-0 rout that Spurs achieved in February 2007 seems highly unlikely (4/5 to be under 2.5 goals) and if anything Fulham are probably slight favourites with their impressive home form. A replay could well be the most likely outcome.

101gg predicts: Fulham 1 – Tottenham 1 (6/1)

Fulham 9/4; Draw 12/5; Tottenham 7/5

Full match odds here.