With a massive clash against Chelsea on the horizon, Spurs will hope to find their best form against the Mackems. Sunderland stopped the rot against Blackburn and will hope to continue their recovery at White Hart Lane.
Both these teams could easily have been on the opposite side of their results last weekend. Spurs battered Stoke and were unfortunate to not take all three points home, ending up with none. Sunderland trailed early against Blackburn, but Rovers’ reluctance to attack invited Sunderland to attack and they were eventually wore their opposition down.
Impressive Belgian keeper Mignolet is still out, so Ireland international Kieren Westwood will be selected in goal. In contrast to the vast experience of his opposite number, Brad Friedel, Westwood will be playing only his seventh Premier League match. The Irishman was involved in the calamitous winner for Wigan a few weeks ago and could have done better against Fletcher as Wolves came from behind to win, but he looks to be improving as he plays more matches. The back four in front of him has been exceedingly poor this season but they looked more solid against Blackburn. Although caught static for Vukcevic’s opener, they went largely untroubled for the rest of the match.
Spurs may choose to rest inspirational midfielder Scott Parker. He has already drawn four yellow cards and if he were to pick up a fifth on Sunday would be suspended for the Chelsea game next week. Sandro played in the Europa League midweek, but will be keen to press his case for regular selection, as will Jake Livermore. Either player represents an able deputy for Parker, but Spurs would undoubtedly be a weaker team without the England international. Another potential absentee is Ledley King. As always, his fitness is in doubt but it has been speculated that he will be available. Again, Redknapp may choose not to risk him in favour of the clash with Chelsea.
Sunderland have led in both of their most recent defeats, but they trailed at half time against Blackburn. Evidently consistency is a problem. Martin O’Neil has a significant decision to make over whether to try to attack Spurs early, as Stoke did to great effect last week, or to sit back in an attempt to absorb Spurs’ attack and then counter. He changed the team from the defeat to Wolves as Titus Bramble made a return to on field action and Connor Wickham made only his fourth start since joining the club. Captain Lee Cattermole, a destructive force on the pitch, served a suspension last week and was expected to return on Sunday. However, the midfielder has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and so is likely to miss the match. Nicklas Bendtner was arrested alongside his captain and will also probably be unavailable. Sunderland’s preparations have also been disturbed by the weather. Snowfalls forcing the closure of the training ground on Friday.
Missing the aggression (22 fouls in 10 games) of Cattermole, as well as his intelligent reading of the game (23 interceptions) and his ability to win the ball (possession regained 47 times), O’Neil may be forced to play a more open side. David Vaughan becomes an important player. When he plays, Vaughan makes 55 passes on average (Sunderland make 440) and makes five tackles per game. In combination with Jack COlback (3 tackles and 35 passes per game) Sunderland have a solid midfield. With Sessegnon’s creativity (24 chances and 3 assists) and the penetration of Richardson and Elmohamady (six and seven successful dribbles respectively) Sunderland can cause Tottenham problems. Spurs’ back-line will be necessarily reshuffled, following the sending off of Younes Kaboul at Stoke. The potential inclusion of Bassong is worrying for many Spurs fans.
The Cameroonian has been poor this season and his penchant for giving away free kicks in dangerous areas could be fatal; with Larsson in deadly form. Spurs were caught cold last weekend and were again slow out of the blocks against Shamrock Rovers on Thursday. If they begin poorly again, Sunderland could expose them and put them under pressure. If they get on a roll and gain confidence, Spurs may find it difficult to get back into the game. Spurs need to focus on keeping the midfield space big. If Bale, Adebayor and Lennon are allowed space to run, they should break open Sunderland’s fragile defence and test a shaky keeper. Spurs create a goal scoring chance every six minutes. If they can play at that pace, Sunderland will struggle to compete. With one eye on the Chelsea match, Spurs need to pick up three points and maintain pressure at the top of the league.
We’ll leave you with some of the passing stats from last seasons game at White Hart Lane taken from our Quick Stats Area in the EPLIndex.com Stats Centre. This area is updated throughout the game so please do subscribe if you’re interested in Stats!