West Ham vs. Tottenham: 5 Things to Look for in Spurs' Derby with the Hammers
Monday's Premier League encounter between Tottenham and West Ham marks a key stop on Spurs' road to the top four.
The match pits Tottenham against a bitter London rival in the Hammers, who have been in fine home form this season.
With next week's huge derby with Arsenal looming and all the implications that match has on Spurs' pursuit of the top four, this could very well be a trap game the club can ill afford.
After all, only one point separates Spurs from the Gunners for fourth place, making next week's clash crucial to the futures of both clubs.
Meanwhile, while West Ham are comfortably out of the relegation zone in 11th place, there is no doubt the Hammers would revel in dealing a setback to their rivals.
As so much rides on every match from here on out, what should one expect from Tottenham in their match at Upton Park?
Here are five things to watch for when Spurs do battle with West Ham on Monday.
Can the Strikers Step Up?
Throughout the past few weeks, Tottenham's striking pair of Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe have clearly been struggling.
It has been six matches since either has bulged the back of the net in a league match, a drought that spans back to Jan. 1.
With Defoe probably not making his return from injury for a few more weeks, Adebayor must step up and provide the club with a much-needed target up front.
With five of West Ham's seven clean sheets coming at home this season, the striker play could be vital to Spurs' success.
Just How High Can Bale Fly?
Gareth Bale's play over the past month has been nothing short of incredible.
In Tottenham's past three Premier League matches, Bale has scored all four of the club's goals and has been a key force in their 10-match unbeaten run.
It's not just the amount of goals the Welshman is scoring, though; it's the incredible way in which he is scoring them.
Can Bale possibly continue this incredible hot streak and carry Spurs for yet another match?
Will Holtby Get a Starting Role?
While Gareth Bale has been grabbing all of the headlines with his wondrous performances, an equally exciting part of Spurs' last month has been the immediate impact of Lewis Holtby.
When the 22-year-old came to White Hart Lane from Schalke in January, it didn't seem to be in the cards that he would start immediately.
However, the German's performances off the bench and in his first few starts have been magnificent, adding a tenacity to Spurs' pressure and attack.
As Clint Dempsey has still struggled to wow since coming to Tottenham in the summer, could Holtby get the start at attacking midfielder in his place?
How Will Spurs Cope with Andy Carroll?
When these two clubs met at White Hart Lane in November, Andy Carroll was the shining light for West Ham in their 3-1 loss.
Besides scoring his side's loan goal (albeit a late consolation), the forward won a whopping 16 aerial duels in that match, more than the entire Spurs squad managed.
While the big Englishman hasn't been at top form since, he netted the match-winner against Swansea in his last match at Upton Park and has the potential to be a handful.
With Michael Dawson patrolling the back line, how will Tottenham cope with Carroll's massive presence this time around?
Top Four Implications
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and his players must know how big of a match this is for them.
As the club has a tough slew of matches still awaiting them in their final dozen Premier League matches of the season, Spurs' position in the top four is not exactly stable.
A loss to West Ham puts all the pressure on Tottenham heading into next week's North London derby at White Hart Lane, while a win would push it onto Arsenal's shoulders.
With the many players' futures at the club, such as Gareth Bale, riding on Champions League qualification and thus a spot in the top four, Spurs have little room for error.
By the end of Monday's match, Tottenham will either have a solid place in the top four or a tenuous spot that could be gone within a week.
Which way will Spurs' season swing?
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