Spurs and Bolton meet at White Hart Lane on Saturday with both sides looking to bounce back from a mid season dip in form and push on towards qualification for European football next year. Spurs will be looking to keep pressure on fourth placed Chelsea and can join their London rivals on 44 points with a win, whilst Bolton will be keen to complete the double over Harry Redknapp’s men after winning 4-2 at the Reebok Stadium earlier in the season.
Tottenham go into Saturday’s fixture as the bookies favourite and will be looking to build on the three clean sheets that they have kept at home in their last three League outings at the Lane; the chances of which will be helped by the return of England International centre back Michael Dawson, who should start in the place of Sebastian Bassong. Spurs form of late has not been up to Champions League standard however, with only one win in their last five games – a 1-0 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park in midweek. Harry Redknapp has called for his strikers to fire them into Champions League contention, and Peter Crouch duly answered against Rovers to head the winner; he should start again up-front alongside Jermaine Defoe. Spurs have only scored 33 goals in their 24 League outings this season, considerably less than the teams above them, and they will need to improve this if they are to challenge for Europe’s Elite club competition.
January signing Steven Pienaar is fit to play and is contention to start on the left wing in the absence of flying Welshman Gareth Bale, who is not yet fit to return to the starting line-up. Spurs will also be without Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, a player who has been at the fulcrum of Spurs’s creativity and style much acclaimed over the last 12 months. Tom Huddlestone is still missing, so Wilson Palacios should deputise alongside Jermaine Jenas in the centre of the park. Redknapp revealed this week that he had the chance to sign experienced Dutch defensive midfielder Mark Van Bommel in the transfer window, which he spurned; the Spurs gaffer probably wishes he could call upon the now AC Milan midfielder with Tom Huddlestone still in recovery.
Like Spurs, Bolton have had a run of poor results of late but got back to winning ways in midweek, also with a 1-0 win at home to Wolves. New loan signing Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score the winner in that game, and is expected to get his first start for the Trotters on Saturday afternoon. Sturridge was something of a revelation in his time at Manchester City but has found his chances very limited at Chelsea and will be looking to reignite his career during his loan spell at Bolton.
Bolton’s other new signing David Wheater should start, and he will need to get back to grips with the pace and quality of Premiership football quickly if Bolton are to take anything from White Hart Lane. Wheater’s centre half partner Gary Cahill will be a key man also, as between them they try to nullify the aerial threat of Peter Crouch. Cahill was heavily linked with an exit from the Reebok Stadium in January, and was not short of suitors; Owen Coyle will be mightily relieved to have kept his star defender, at least until the summer. Lee Chung Yong is back from the Asia Cup but will probably be rested, whilst Jlloyd Samuel is unavailable due to a calf strain.
The next couple of games have the ability to make or break Tottenham’s season, with Bolton’s visit being followed by a tricky trip to Sunderland and then their first leg against AC Milan on Tuesday week. The North London side can ill-afford to take their minds of the task at hand and Bolton will be ready to take advantage of any inconsistency or European daydreaming. This is the type of game that Spurs really need to be winning if they are to challenge for a top four finish, whilst Bolton can use the game to measure how far they have come since their impressive start to the season.
Published – http://www.fastlinesports.com/?p=4567