Tottenham vs. Chelsea: Picking Spurs Starting XI to Win Their FA Cup Semi
On Sunday, Tottenham and Chelsea do battle with a trip to the FA Cup Final on the line.
However, even more is on the line for these two rivals.
After all, with their battle for a Champions League place in next year's competition still raging on, this match could determine momentum heading into the final few matches.
In fact, with so few matches remaining in the league season, there is a stark possibility that this match could swing the race for fourth.
Further, given the terrible fate that may await Tottenham were they to miss out on Champions League football, this match could determine the success or failure of their season.
Thus, with such an important match looming, picking the correct starting lineup becomes all the more necessary.
Here is my choice for Spurs' starting XI for their FA Cup Semi-Final clash with Chelsea.
GK: Brad Friedel
It's a cruel world for Carlo Cudicini.
The goalkeeper who has been put in charge of Spurs' cup runs marshaled the back for his club and led them to a date at Wembley.
His reward for this feat: he will almost certainly be passed over for Brad Friedel, who has started every league match this season.
To be fair, Friedel has played solidly this season and is probably the best option for any given match.
In the league, in terms of the ratio of goals to shots conceded, the Spurs are eighth best at just under 9 percent and behind Manchester United, Manchester City, Newcastle, Everton, Fulham, Sunderland and Swansea.
LB: Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Assou-Ekotto is the best option at left-back.
He has been the most selected player at that position, has had a much improved season in terms of defending, and has continually posed a threat in attack.
However, I may be the only one to have had this feeling (or pointed it out, at least), but BAE's play has been ticking me off lately.
Ever since his few goals, he seems to be very selfish in attack, which is unwise.
After all, his goals against Everton and Newcastle, while both very beautiful (the one against Everton much more so), were not things one expects to happen every time he touches the ball.
Now more than ever, he seems to be wailing shots from 18 yards that fly 10 yards over the crossbar and 15 yards wide.
Don't get me wrong, the guy's a talented player and I want him taking shots every once in a while.
I would just like to see him doing more of his bread and butter in his long balls and crosses.
Hopefully that starts against Chelsea.
CB: Ryan Nelsen
Nelsen may not yet have a lot of experience playing for Tottenham, but there may not be much choice for Redknapp.
With Younes Kaboul's injury putting the most reliable Spurs centre-back on the sidelines for this match, Tottenham's in a bit of a crisis at the position.
Further, Ledley King is doubtful with knee injuries; should he be fit, he would probably be best used on the bench (especially given his display against Norwich).
Nelsen has played pretty well in the few appearances he has had for Spurs, albeit in lesser matches.
Let's see how he fares against greater competition.
CB: William Gallas
Between Dawson's injury having him out until August and Kaboul's having him out for this match, Gallas has become a must-play for Redknapp.
Gallas has played very well for Spurs this season, but has been somewhat hampered by injury.
Just a few weeks ago, he was one of the best players on the pitch in Tottenham and Chelsea's 0-0 draw, fending off defenders and keeping the match as boring for neutrals as it ended up being.
After sitting out the Norwich match with a calf complaint, he has declared himself ready to play, a rare injury boost for Spurs at centre-back.
RB: Kyle Walker
Tottenham's young talent, Kyle Walker, has become a shoo-in for almost every match Spurs play.
His speed to get past defenders and ability to deliver pinpoint crosses has made him one of the most promising full-backs in the league and a joy to watch.
With Tottenham's lack of depth at right back after selling Verdan Corluka to Bayer Leverkusen, Walker has had to become Spurs' iron man of sorts, starting nearly every match.
With almost no one to replace him if he were to get injured, though, he must stay healthy in this match to help his club avoid disaster.
LM: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale is a shoo-in at left midfielder for almost any club in the world.
Bale has been playing especially well in the FA Cup, scoring a goal in the Bolton match and assisting all three goals against Stevenage.
Additionally, Bale almost snatched the winner against Chelsea a few weeks ago when he headed off the crossbar.
The question remains if this is one of the last few matches we will see Bale in a Spurs uniform.
Either way, treasure it.
CM: Scott Parker
Parker has established himself this season as one of the finest defensive midfielders in the game.
His hustle and scrappy play are to be admired.
However, the level of his play has dropped as the season has worn on.
Hopefully, he will be able to rediscover his incredible form from earlier in the season for the last few matches.
CM: Luka Modric
Modric's creativity is something Spurs will sorely miss if they were to lose him this summer.
His ability to pick apart his opponents with his passing and ball skills in the middle of the park is incredible and paramount to Tottenham's success.
It may come as no surprise, then, that for the vast portion of the club's slump, Redknapp has been playing Modric out of position out wide.
Hopefully, this is not a mistake that is made again.
Against Chelsea a few weeks ago, Modric was played in the centre and was able to create one of the only chances of the match.
More of the same, please.
RM: Aaron Lennon
Aaron Lennon's return from injury looked triumphant at first, as his incredible quickness provided the club with yet another attacking option.
He set up a goal off the bench in Spurs' 3-1 victory over Swansea and set up what should have been the game-winning goal at Sunderland.
However, he became a virtual non-factor when Tottenham slumped to a home defeat against Norwich.
Lennon's runs can be lethal, especially when Chelsea left back Ashley Cole is playing while struggling with an ankle injury.
If he can play up to his potential, Lennon could prove the difference-maker in this match.
ST: Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor has had an up-and-down year for Spurs.
The season started so brightly for him, as he scored aplenty and seemed right at home.
Then, when Spurs hit their skid, he seemed to lose his finishing touch.
With two beautifully headed goals against Swansea a few weeks ago, though, maybe the Togolese striker will have found some confidence in front of net again.
On the bright side, with Branislav Ivanovic suspended and John Terry a question mark due to injury, Ade may have a bit more of a chance to attack the Chelsea centre-backs in the air.
ST: Rafael van der Vaart
Rafael van der Vaart has been finding his form of late.
After struggling for a few months, his stoppage-time equaliser against Stoke seems to have righted the ship for VDV.
A beautiful strike to open the scoring against Swansea just highlighted his regaining of form.
After Louis Saha struggled to make any impact in Spurs' terrible loss to Norwich last weekend, I think van der Vaart is the clear pick as Adebayor's partner.
This is a tough pick.
From their first two encounters of the season, these teams seem pretty even.
At the same time, though, both have seemed very content with draws out of their two league matches.
Whether this match will open up or not is to be seen.
In the end, this could end up being a tight affair or a memorable shootout, but either way it should go down to the wire.
Chelsea have the ability to win it with just touches from their massively experienced line-up.
I just see Tottenham as wanting this one a bit more, especially given Chelsea's looming match-ups with Barcelona.
Final score: 2-1 Spurs
Goals by van der Vaart, Lennon, and Sturridge
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