The season is nearly over and as we go into our penultimate game of the season the Champions League qualification spot is still up for grabs as is 3rd place! THFC1882 is pleased have Mike Hooley back to preview the game.
Following a very encouraging 4-1 victory on Wednesday night away at Bolton, which itself came hot on the heels of a home win against Wanderers’ fellow Lancashire relegation candidates Blackburn, Spurs face a third team threatened with relegation on Sunday afternoon.
The atmosphere and outlook at White Hart Lane is suddenly significantly more positive, coinciding with the FA taking everyone by surprise in choosing Roy Hodgson for the England manager job instead of overwhelming favourite, our own gaffer Harry Redknapp. Spurs now have a decent chance of securing fourth spot, sitting four points clear of Chelsea in sixth and thanks to a vastly superior goal difference over a Newcastle side which finish with two very tough games, at home to Manchester City and away at Everton.
There is even the slim and somewhat incredible chance to reclaim third, but this will realistically mean Spurs need to win both their remaining games while hoping arch-rivals Arsenal don’t – and almost certainly requiring a favour from a certain Mr Hodgson on the season’s final day, because surely Norwich won’t record a famous North London double this Saturday. Third place of course secures Champions League football next season, while whoever finishes fourth will be left hoping Chelsea don’t snatch it away by beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Whichever way you look at it, at least one of these London rivals will be left very disappointed.
Spurs have a good chance to record a vital victory away at Aston Villa on Sunday, a team who haven’t won since beating Fulham on 10March and are in danger of being relegated, though three more points will almost certainly guarantee their survival. Villa are this campaign’s draw specialists, having drawn a whopping 16 times so far this season. Ten of those draws though have been recorded away from home, while at Villa Park they have won just four times, losing on eight occasions.
It is Villa’s wretched home from and lack of confidence, allied to Spurs’ re-found self-belief, that points to an away win. In addition, the chasm between the sides in the 2-0 in at White Hart Lane back in November ought to bode well for Spurs. Football is seldom a simple as that of course, but there’s no doubt the Lilywhites have a great chance to finish the season in style.
Villa have had a number of injuries this season, perhaps having little choice but to blood a few too many youngsters when experience heads were called for. But beleaguered manager Alex McLeish – desperately hoping to avoid a second successive relegation after taking Birmingham down last season – should have captain Richard Dunne available, along with first-choice full-backs Stephen Warnock and ex-Spur Alan Hutton, a fine keeper in Shay Given and a decent if currently goal-shy striker in Gabriel Agbonlahor. Charles N’Zogbia is also likely to play but has largely flattered to deceive this season.
I am writing before any team news is released, but most Spurs fans will be wondering whether Redknapp will stick with the same team for a third game running – and even though my player of the season Scott Parker is likely to be available again after injury, I expect and would like to see an unchanged line-up. Sandro has performed excellently in Parker’s stead, and it would be very harsh to swap him out for Parker. It would also make little sense in changing the team shape at this stage, with the players having just recorded two morale-boosting wins.
Van der Vaart looks like he’s back on form, and he’s sure to start along with Adebayor, fresh from his brace at the Reebok Stadium. Assuming Sandro overcomes a knock, he should start with Modric, flanked by flying wingers Bale & Lennon – it’s great to see the right-winger back fit and on form. At the back, providing Gallas and Walker are fit, the defence should also remain the same, with the French veteran starting ahead of King to partner the now first-choice Kaboul, and Walker hopefully celebrating his new contract extension. With Assou-Ekotto out for the season, Rose is sure to play at left-back.
Possible line-ups (pre-team news)
Friedel; Walker, Rose, Gallas, Kaboul; Sandro; Modric, Lennon, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor
Having predicted a Bolton win in midweek you may want to pay little attention to my prediction, but, after a fine performance and those four well-taken goals on Wednesday night, and assuming we go with the same team, I would expect us to prevail by 1 or 2 goals – I’ll go for Villa 1 Spurs 2.
Mike (@mjhooley on Twitter )
The Villa fan in the opposing corner for this game is Matt Bye.
I’m from Derby but have been an Aston Villa fan since I was about 8 when I wanted to copy my best friend. Regrettably I have never been a season ticket holder, a life of working in retail has prevented this. I have always tried to get to the games I can, normally about 10 a season.
When it comes to my favourite players, I always look back at the mid-late 90s with rose tinted glasses. My first thought when it comes to a favourite player comes to Tommy Johnson. Always considered an odd choice, but I thought he was great. Unlucky to come under the likes of Yorke and Milosevic, but he stepped up to the mark when required. Also off the pitch, he was a great character, I remember watching my old VHS season reviews and him always being the centre of the laughs! Andy Townsend is another old favourite of mine, absolutely solid on the pitch and he signed my school bag in JD Sports! Olaf Mellberg and Martin Laursen were always my favourite CB pair. I remember seeing Laursen play for the first time and his skill and ability to read the game blew me away.
Current favourites in the team are Agbonlahor, Bent, Petrov, Cueller and Given, definitely solid choices for us, but I am really proud of our young players coming through; Clark, Lichaj, Baker, Lowry, Albrighton, Bannan, Gardner, Herd and Weimann are real future stars for the future. It is unfortunate that they have been thrust head first into the deep end, but they are doing themselves proud.
Lastly, it’s impossible for a villa fan to talk about favourite players without mentioning M’Lord Paul McGrath!
Season so far
There’s no hiding it, this hasn’t been a season to remember for the Holte End. Controversial management, lack of transfers, falling gates and lack of results and performances have left Villa fans feeling down, as low as our league table position.
Home form has been terrible, we have nearly had more draws than any other team in Premiership history and a massive loss of points from winning positions. A lot of Villa fans have been very vocal in their disapproval of McLeish. Whilst he wasn’t my first choice as a manager, I have always stuck to the point that I support the club and as such back McLeish. I don’t like the style of play we have adopted under him, I feel we have been far too defensive which has stifled players such as Bent, who given the service, will bang in goals for fun. But the lack of width and anything through the middle has left him isolated and a very disappointing performance this season.
Again for players like N’Zogbia and Ireland, young players like Albrighton and Bannan havent fulfilled their promise but I do think this has been more down to our tactics rather than the players. I feel sorry for our defensive line ups too, they have taken a lot of abusive from sections of Villa Park, but when we are inviting opponents onto us constantly for a game, then they are bound to get through.
My players of the season have been Agbonlahor and Given. Gabby has full of passion all season. Chasing every ball, running all over the pitch and really leading by example. Given has been a hero in goal, we would be in an even worse position with a lesser keeper in the goal. But a mention to Guzan too, who stood up tremendously in Given’s absence.
Richard Dunne returned to the team against West Brom and had a fantastic game and will certainly feature against Spurs. Eric Lichaj has also had some great performances in the starting XI and is looking to continue his great run and stop Spurs’ wing attacks.
Possible line up
Going with a flat back four, with N’Zogbia and Albrighton running up and down the wings, Ireland in a attacking role which Warnock sits the whole a little. Agbonlahor playing just behind Weimann
Tottenham will be in a good mood after battering Bolton at The Reebok, but Villa really need the win to seal their premiership status. I can see us going into this really wanting the win, but doubts remain on us both in front of goal and defending set pieces. Spurs obviously have ambitions for the top three too, so it’s all to play for! Going to be hopeful and go for 2-1 Villa. Villa to take a 1-0 lead, Spurs come back quickly and then Weimann grabbing a scruffy late goal against the run of play!
Matt ( @MattB88 on Twitter )
Many thanks to Mike and Matt for spending time in previewing the game for us.
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