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Match Preview: FA Cup Semi Final: Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, Sunday 15th April, Wembley Stadium, 6pm kick off, ITV1

THFC1882 asks Kenny Palmer for his preview and thoughts on the match that could dictate the rest of Tottenham’s season.

To misquote the lyrics of Ossie’s dream Spurs are on their way to Wembley their knees have gone all trembley, could be referring to the teams recent performances in a dreadful run of 1 win in 8 as they come into Sunday’s pivotal game.

A season that started with such promise is in danger of unravelling and ending with huge disappointment. Who other than Tottenham could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? We undoubtedly have our Tottenham back!

A London Derby at Wembley is the perfect opportunity for the team to resurrect the season and build up some momentum as the season comes to a close. A fact not lost on the players as Emmanuel Adebayor said on the Spurs website: “This is a big London derby and we have to do it for our fans.”

Mondays deserved defeat against newly promoted Norwich still lingers on many fans minds. It was an unconvincing listless performance in which only Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe emerged from the game with any credit. What was disconcerting was the ease with which Aaron Wilbraham and Grant Holt hardly stellar strikers unsettled the Spurs back line in what was Ledley Kings worse game of the season.

Harry Redknapp as is his want did not take responsibility for the part he played in the defeat but referred to an unspecified “they” in his decision to play 4-4-2 which he stated contributed to the team’s downfall, claiming there were calls to play 4-4-2. This is strange as in the preceding week he said 4-4-2 doesn’t work anymore.

It is the first of 3 big games Chelsea will play in the week who will undoubtedly have one eye on Wednesday upcoming game against Barcelona in the champion’s league.

This will mean Roberto Di Matteo is unlikely to field his strongest team. John Terry who is recovering from cracked ribs will likely sit out the game. A big boost for Spurs is the news that Chelsea’s best right back Branislav Ivanovic lost his appeal against an FA charge for violent conduct and will miss the game. His likely replacement Bosingwa hasn’t the defensive ability to contain Gareth Bale, assuming Bale has the inclination to play on the left!  If they decide to play Paulo Ferreira instead that shouldn’t unduly worry the Welshman as he has “owned”   Ferreira in the past on the pitch most notably in the game at White Hart Lane in the 2009-10 season.

Juan Mata and the improving Fernando Torres will be the main danger men for Chelsea. The Spurs backline will have to put in a significantly improved performance than the shambolic display against Norwich to keep them out.

Tottenham’s only but big injury doubt is Younnes Kaboul who limped off in the 1st half against Norwich. With Ledley King unlikely to be able to play 2 games in a week and doubts about William Gallas’s fitness it leaves Spurs short in central defence.

This highlights the folly of Redknapps decision to let experienced campaigners Sebastian Bassong and Vedran Corluka go out on loan in the January transfer window. It now looks like Spurs may have to hang their hat on the former Blackburn Rovers reserve Ryan Nelsen!

How Redknapp sets up the team is crucial to the outcome of the match. 4-2-3-1 seems to be in vogue but apart from wins against Bolton in the cup and against newly promoted Swansea and Norwich how many games have Spurs won playing this formation? It undoubtedly gives the team a defensive platform but leaves the team bereft of width in attack if the 3 are Bale, Modric and Van Der Vaart. Playing this formation at Stamford Bridge Spurs drew but offered very little from an attacking perspective particularly in the 1st half.

All that has been good about the Lilywhites in the 1st half of the season has been playing 4-4-1-1 which I believe Redknapp will go with on Sunday.

Natural width in Bale on the left and Lennon on the right, Parker shielding the back four, Modric creating centrally, assisted by Van Der Vaart playing between the lines with Adebayor the pivot in attack. It will be a dereliction of duty if Lennon and particularly Bale do not exploit the open spaces out wide.

Tottenham and particularly Bale will be missing a trick if they don’t exploit Boswinga or Ferreira down Chelsea’s right. Bale is the key if he gets chalk on his boots and stays out wide on the left it will prove decisive. The team and fans have missed his marauding runs powering down the left wing!

Probable line-up:

Prediction

Chelsea will have one eye on their Champions League game against Barcelona on Wednesday which Spurs should look to capitalize on. Tottenham are due are a really big performance. I believe we will see it on Sunday in a game which will define the season. A swaggering 3-1 win to Spurs!

To finish on a Bill Nicholson quote: ‘It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.’

Spurs are on their way Wembley Tottenham going to do it again!

COYS

Kenny ( @KennyPalmer on Twitter )

The opponents view this week comes from Junaid Hussain.

I’m a blogger for 1amsports where we cover all the major American sports i.e NFL, NHL and so on, currently reside in Nottingham. I have been a Chelsea fan over 12 years now and my favourite player will always be Gianfranco Zola. He summed the game of football up with always playing with a smile, plus his skill level was superb and would have me on occasions saying “how did he do that?”

Chelsea face Tottenham on Sunday, where they battle to represent London in the FA Cup final. It’s been an odd season for Chelsea, as it was meant to be a year of change and out with the old guard and in with the young when Andres Villas Boas took over as the Chelsea manager.  He had a 5 year plan and vision for the club but only lasted less than 10 months as the manager. The beginning of the end began when he took some major decisions and decided to sell Alex and Anelka, after they became unhappy being on the bench and not getting enough playing time. Major problems arose between the senior players and the manager when the likes of Lampard and Drogba were not getting into the team regularly and being continually left out for the major games against the likes of Man United, Tottenham and Arsenal, appearing only as substitutes.

In January it became clear that AVB didn’t have much time left as the manager with the Chelsea team splitting into two, the AVB camp or Seniors camp. His final game came against West Brom and after losing 1-0 to them as well as losing 3-1 to Napoli in the Champions League in midweek, Roman Abramovich had seen enough and wielded the axe, replacing him with Roberto Di Matteo as the temporary manager for the remainder of the season.

Sunday’s game is a massive game for Chelsea, even with the Barcelona game on the following Wednesday night, as this is most likely the last hurrah for Drogba, Malouda and Lampard who are expected to leave in the summer as Chelsea try to go younger and remove player power within the team.

RDM time as the manager has been inconsistent but his biggest win came against Napoli winning 5-4 aggregate and progressing through to the Champion’s League Semi Final where they will face the mighty Barcelona.  RDM has some decisions to make on Sunday when they go against Spurs with Barcelona waiting for them in midweek, with which big stars will he rest if any at all? John Terry is recovering from broken ribs, Luiz has gradually improved in his game especially defensively and Cahill has finally settled down since his January move from Bolton. I expect Chelsea to go with Cahill and Luiz. I don’t expect Lampard to start on Sunday with the CL game on Wednesday with Raul Meireles, Mikel and Essien making up the midfield. Upfront will be the biggest decision for RDM does he go with Torres who has really getting into form now he is playing regularly or Drogba who can switch it on anytime?  I think Drogba will start after being rested on Monday against Fulham with Sturridge, Malouda making the front 3.

Prediction:

Chelsea must settle quickly as they have been quite poor upfront, have struggled to put teams away when on top and allowed them to get back into the game. One of Chelsea’s major issues this season has been against corners and set pieces. Spurs have the talents of Bale, Modric and Van Der Vaart, who can deliver balls into the box for Adebayor and King to get on the end of them and see if they can use this weakness to their advantage.  I expect Tottenham to pile on the pressure early on but Chelsea have to score first if they want to win this game. Unfortunately I’m going to say 2-1 Tottenham with Chelsea having one eye on the Champions League game against Barcelona.

You can follow me on twitter @j_hussain

Many thanks for Kenny and Junaid spending the time to preview the game for us.

COYS

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