West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Preview and Team News
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Except they have West Ham United to contend with first, and a trip to Upton Park is rarely easy.
Tottenham lost the last time they visited London's East End in September 2010. A Frederic Piquionne goal gave the Hammers a 1-0 win, a rare bright spot in a poor season that ended in relegation.
West Ham are not yet safe from the drop this time around. But if they are to stay up, it will be down to their so-far-solid home form, picking up six wins and four draws (in addition to two losses) to make Upton Park a relatively happy place.
Hostile and emotional are likely to be the opportune words to describe the place this Monday, at least to begin with.
Tottenham awaken a fierceness in the Hammers' faithful like no other club. But ahead of the game they will also be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of their greatest ever player—Bobby Moore.
The two events could make for a special atmosphere. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is certainly banking on that, and will be hopeful the reflection of the club's great past can inspire his players in the present.
"Hopefully we can win the game and that would be the best thing that could happen to celebrate Bobby Moore," Allardyce told the media on Friday (via his club's official website).
West Ham could do with the boost a derby win would give them. They have won just twice since the turn of the year and sit six points off the relegation zone.
Their last win at Upton Park saw them notch up an impressive 1-0 win over Swansea City, with Andy Carroll scoring his second goal for the club. A defeat away at Aston Villa soured the mood somewhat, and they have had a couple of weeks to think about where they go from here.
James Collins is fit again, while Joey O'Brien should be involved after coming off injured against Villa last time out.
While those two and their fellow defenders will be tasked with nullifying the threat of players like Gareth Bale—who Allardyce described as "the major difference between Tottenham and the teams they've played recently"—the plan is not to park the bus.
"Our home form has been excellent all season and so we're going to hopefully make sure Tottenham worry about us for a long period of time on Monday night, rather than us worry about them too much," said the West Ham boss.
Tottenham head to Upton Park off the back of a late win away in Lyon on Thursday. West Ham offer a different approach to the French outfit, one more direct and physical.
As tough as that can be, Andre Villas-Boas' side will likely relish going toe-to-toe with them after the weariness of attempting to unlock the stubborn rearguard action of Lyon.
With that said, Spurs have work to do in maintaining an unbeaten league record going back to mid-December. The top-four chaser's 3-1 win over West Ham in the last meeting between the sides was the beginning of a turnaround in fortunes for the North London club following a tough fall period.
Much has been said about Bale's sensational form of late, but the Lyon game showed Tottenham cannot solely rely on the Welshman to save the day.
Eyes then will be on Emmanuel Adebayor, who is still struggling to replicate his strong form of late season. With Jermain Defoe unlikely to be fit in time, he has another chance to prove himself. Aaron Lennon and Clint Dempsey will be among those looking to have an impact too, after a quiet few weeks off the back of standout displays in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Tottenham have no new injury concerns to report either. Hugo Lloris and Michael Dawson will likely return to the line-up after being rested for Spurs' Europa League games.
Villas-Boas does not think that his team's European excursions will have a negative effect on his team, instead telling Sky Sports: "After Europa League games we've always been good in the Premier League. I think it puts us in a good position to face West Ham.
"I don't think it's a distraction, I think it's an inspiration and I hope it can be exactly that against West Ham."
The Portuguese is mostly right in talking about his team's form after Europa League games. They have won four of their subsequent league fixtures after European outings this season. But they also lost twice, when they played Manchester City and Everton after.
This time around, the extra day off may have done them some good ahead of a fixture that is as big, if not bigger than those two (for the fans at least).
In an interesting subplot to Monday night's clash, Villas-Boas has outlined his general resistance to an element so integral to Allardyce's own management style—the use of ProZone (or similar) statistical data.
In an article written by Matthew Dunn of the Express newspaper, Villas-Boas revealed “I don’t use it because I don’t believe in it.
“I have never used ProZone. You always have to be very, very careful with statistics. It doesn’t mean that we negate them completely, we just don’t use them to the extent that people might think.
“For me the stats are useless, but it depends from coach to coach and it’s different approaches. In the end what you do with statistics and what you believe is more important. We have to find the right balance for what you need and what is really useful".
Villas-Boas added that for his coaching staff the "mind and how the player feels" carries more value. This belief has fared well enough for Tottenham so far, but on a night celebrating the life of a West Ham great, there is sure to be plenty of feeling emanating from both sides.
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