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Picking the Tottenham Starting XI to Take on Fulham

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

Picking the Tottenham Starting XI to Take on Fulham

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    The last time Tottenham Hotspur made the trip across London to Craven Cottage, Fulham gave them a heck of a battering in the second half that belied the 3-1 scoreline the visitors won by.

    Tottenham had gone up two-nil before halftime with Chris Baird deflecting in a Gareth Bale effort before Aaron Lennon combined with the Welshman to score arguably his best goal for the club.

    It was a different story in the second half, with Fulham putting Spurs under an enormous amount of pressure following a goal from Younes Kaboul.

    Every one of Brad Friedel's long kicks forward seemed to come straight back at the away side within moments, resulting in several near misses as Martin Jol's side forced his former club into last-ditch defending that relied on good fortune.

    Jermain Defoe eased his team's nerves with a late third.

    Just over a year on from that game, the personnel involved is somewhat different.

    Two of Fulham's starting lineup that day—Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele—are now operating out of White Hart Lane, with Spurs managed by Andre Villas-Boas instead of Harry Redknapp (who was actually absent that day as he recovered from heart surgery).

    Jol remains at Fulham and engineered another link between the two clubs by signing former Spur Dimitar Berbatov.

    This time around, Spurs supporters would rather avoid the nervousness that accompanied their last visit to Southwest London and will be keen to see their team secure a third win in a week.

    Will Villas-Boas be making any changes in the team that held on to secure three points against Liverpool, or will it be the same again?

Defense

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    Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul remain sidelined, so it's a case of Villas-Boas picking four from six in regards to his defense.

    Kyle Naughton has looked out of his depth at left-back, suspect to anyone attacking him on his weaker side.

    There was an argument to be made a little while back that it might have been worth giving him a chance in his more natural position of right-back.

    Those notions have been dispelled for the time being with Kyle Walker playing his best football of the season over the last fortnight.

    Jan Vertonghen should continue at left-back, which leaves the central defensive positions.

    William Gallas returned to the starting lineup against Liverpool to cover for the poorly Steven Caulker.

    With Caulker back to full health, it has to be a straight swap of the two, with Michael Dawson remaining alongside.

    Dawson has brought some much-needed solidity to the Tottenham back-four, but he and his fellow defenders will need to be at their best as they contend with a dangerous Fulham frontline that has the potential to surprise in more than one respect.

    Berbatov, currently skippering the Cottagers in Brede Hangeland's absence, is a guarantee to start and is reveling in the freedom his ex-Spurs boss Jol has given him once more.

    Alongside him will be either Mladen Petric or Hugo Rodallega, both fine strikers with the ability to hurt you if left unattended.

Midfield

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    Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will be occupying the wings at Craven Cottage barring unforeseen events over the next 24 hours.

    The two will be looking to replicate the impact they had on Wednesday night at Liverpool and indeed against Fulham in the same fixture last season.

    Sandro's full-hearted sermons of conviction and diligence long ago made believers of the Tottenham faithful, but he has continued to inspire during this campaign and will once again be tasked with being his side's chief ball-winner in midfield.

    Moussa Dembele will be alongside him as the Belgian returns to his former club for the first time.

    Spurs missed their summer signing during his recent injury layoff and will be relying on him somewhat to dictate the tempo with all the skill and tenacity that made him so highly rated at Fulham.

    Tom Huddlestone was the one to miss out against Liverpool and will be unlucky to do so again. His range of passing was becoming a welcome part of Spurs' play again of late.

    However, reservations over his defensive work remain, at least compared to the aforementioned players, but look to see him involved late in this game.

In Attack

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    Clint Dempsey acrimoniously left the club where he made his name this past summer, and this week he reiterated his reasoning behind the departure.

    Yet this is not the kind of return Villas-Boas imagined a few weeks back when he outlined the value of the motivation for Emmanuel Adebayor wanting to get one back over his old teams—we all know how that worked out!

    Dempsey might not receive the warmest of welcomes from Fulham supporters, but the American will hold no grudges against a club where he enjoyed so many fine years.

    He should take his place in the starting lineup with the experiences of Adebayor serving as a warning to why this isn't personal. It is just another game.

    Even so, it is a challenge for Dempsey as he seeks to quell any personal feelings while putting in a performance that demonstrates further signs of progress following a bright week for the attacking midfielder.

    With Adebayor still suspended, it will once again be Defoe up front, where he will be grateful for Hangeland's absence as he attempts to cause similar kinds of problems for Fulham as he did for West Ham a week ago.

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