Fulham v Tottenham, FA Cup 4th round, January 28, 2011
By John Toner
Tottenham Hotspur travel to Fulham on Sunday for one of five all Premier League ties in this yearsâ€™ FA Cup fourth round. A difficult encounter in a competition both sides will be seeking to do well in.
Spurs are in a slightly lean patch at the moment having drawn two and lost one. First came a disappointing defeat to Everton at Goodison Park, then the frustrating goalless draw at home against Manchester United. The most recent performance, a point at Newcastle, was also less than convincing as although the visitors dominated proceedings for large periods they left it until injury time to rescue a point.
This uninspiring league form means Spurs do not approach the game with the kind of confidence they would have had, might this game directly have followed their last FA Cup appearance in which they crushed manager less League One strugglers Charlton Athletic 3-0.
Fulhamâ€™s last three league games have been the complete mixed bag. They came away from the DW Stadium with a point after a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic and then produced a creditable 2-0 home victory over Stoke City. That good result was immediately followed by disappointment however, their trip to Anfield on Wednesday night ended in defeat after a rather comical John Paintsil own goal in a game where the visitors did have their fair share of opportunities.
Despite going into the game off the back of a defeat, Fulham will take heart from their third round tie against League One Peterborough United who they utterly demolished 6-2. Peterborough had been going through a bad patch and it was to prove manager Gary Johnsonâ€™s last game in charge.
Tottenham have several injury concerns ahead of the game not least one Gareth Bale who will miss out with the back problem that meant he had to be withdrawn in the first half against Newcastle. Full back Benoit Assoiu-Ekotto (knee), midfielder Wilson Palacios (also knee) and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes (shoulder) are all major doubts although newcomer Steven Pienaar should recover from cramp in time to feature.
Jonathan Woodgate and Jamie Oâ€™Hara have both returned to full training after long spells out with injury but will be unavailable as they continue to work on their match fitness. They will be joined by Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and club captain Ledley King who looks set to miss the rest of the season with his persistent groin problem.
The Cottagersâ€™ injury list isnâ€™t quite as extensive although they will be without some key men. Striker Bobby Zamoraâ€™s recovery from a broken leg is progressing but heâ€™s still not likely to be fit until mid-February, defender Phillipe Senderos is in line for a similar return date after having surgery on his Achilles and Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer remains on international duty with Australia at the Asia Cup. Dickson Etuhu is a major doubt after missing the trip to Liverpool with a hamstring problem he picked up against Stoke and also doubtful is youngster Matthew Briggs who underwent surgery on a calf problem in December.
The head to head statistics donâ€™t read well for Fulham fans, Tottenham have dominated them in recent times staying undefeated in their last seven meetings, doing the league double over them last season as well as sending them out of the FA Cup at the quarter final stage.
Both sides have displayed some speculative league form in the last couple of weeks but were both very impressive against admittedly inferior opponents in the last round of this competition. In that sense things donâ€™t looks so bad for Fulham who will be looking to make their home advantage count this time around.
The match should be a good contest, Fulham and Spurs will both feel they have a realistic chance in this competition and will both go for a win. The last thing that Spurs want is a replay with a busy period ahead that includes the small matter of a two legged Champions League tie against AC Milan. However Tottenhamâ€™s inability to keep clean sheets and the fact they have drawn five times away from home, the same amount that Fulham have drawn at home, and both teams inconsistent form of late, points to an exciting score draw.
Tonerâ€™s Prediction: Fulham 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2