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Premier League: How Tottenham Will Line Up Against Sunderland

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Premier League: How Tottenham Will Line Up Against Sunderland
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Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping for a reason to celebrate versus Sunderland. Will Aaron Lennon and Lewis Holtby be involved?

Just three days after beating Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur head to Sunderland for their second successive game with relegation-fearing opposition.

Having been pushed hard by the Cottagers, Tottenham would be smart to expect at least a similar effort from a Sunderland side who made Chelsea work for a 4-3 win on Wednesday.

The two teams have already faced each other this season. Sunderland beat Spurs 3-1 in Hong Kong this past summer in the Barclays Asia Trophy. Much has changed since then, with different players on both sides and a change in management in Wearside.

Publicly, Spurs are making the right noises about this competitive meeting. Hugo Lloris told the club's official website—here via the official Twitter page—of the need to take the Black Cats seriously:

Pleasingly for Spurs supporters, their team and manager Andre Villas-Boas have backed up their words since being beaten 6-0 by Manchester City two weeks ago.

Tromso were comfortably dispatched in the Europa League before a good performance and a point versus Manchester United restored pride in the Premier League. The 2-1 win over Fulham has even threatened to establish a sense of momentum moving forward.

Villas-Boas' team selection for Sunderland will attempt to maintain this momentum. As was the case in midweek, he will be dealing with at least one forced change.

The Spurs boss confirmed via the club's website that Jan Vertonghen will miss Saturday's game with an ankle injury.

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Danny Rose played versus Sunderland in the summer, but will not be ready to take on his former loan club this Saturday?

According to BBC Sport's match preview, Danny Rose is not yet ready to return at left-back. That leaves an interesting choice for Villas-Boas between the emerging Zeki Fryers and the tried but not so trusted Kyle Naughton.

The latter is a decent full-back but has frequently struggled on his weaker left side. Naughton is likely to be selected in Vertonghen's place, but it may be one of his last chances there if Fryers continues to progress well.

Elsewhere, first-choice goalkeeper Lloris starting is a given. Kyle Walker will continue at right-back, probably alongside central defensive pair Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson.

The Spurs skipper will be keen to avoid a similar slip-up to the one that contributed to Ashkan Dejagah's opener for Fulham. The defence will collectively be hoping for an error-free showing after instances of poor control and lapses in concentration have proved so costly of late.

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BBC Sport have Mousa Dembele facing a fitness test after missing the midweek visit to his old club. Should he pass, Villas-Boas may well opt to restore the midfield that fared so well versus Man United.

Though it would mean a third start in seven days for both, Sandro and Paulinho could play and then be rested for Thursday's inconsequential game with Anzhi Makhachkala. If Dembele is not fit, do not be surprised to see Lewis Holtby rewarded with a place for his goalscoring heroics of the other night.

In the midfield, a decent understanding of what works best is beginning to be established. Further forward, things are less clear.

Aaron Lennon has been among Spurs' best players in recent weeks. After initially starting out on left wing at Fulham, he and his team looked better when he switched flanks.

Lennon's ability to attack a full-back inside and out has restored a sense of width going forward. He has been deployed to accommodate others in recent weeks, but it is becoming apparent it should be vice versa.

The job Nacer Chadli did defensively versus United may earn him a recall on the left. He gradually began pitching in more frequently as that game progressed. While it would be hoped he would see more involvement in attack, a job well done may help ensure the inexperienced full-back behind him is not exposed.

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Former Spur Gus Poyet has seen to an improvement in Sunderland's results, in part thanks to better work defensively.

Sunderland's defensive performances have picked up since Gus Poyet's appointment as manager in October (two league clean sheets compared to none previously). Inconsistency remains an issue, however.

Spurs have scored four goals in two matches, but none of their strikers have netted in Premier League play since Roberto Soldado's penalty beat Hull City in October.

For Villas-Boas, deciding between restoring Soldado or sticking with Jermain Defoe (Emmanuel Adebayor and Harry Kane are still out injured) to get at Sunderland has given him pause for thought. He explained to The Independent's Sam Wallace:

We have two wonderful strikers and they are not scoring as much as they wanted but they are producing football for the team. All of us want them to finish off situations that they have so hopefully that can happen soon. Whichever striker it is. Most important is for the team to win. Both of them are fighting hard for their place.

Villas-Boas was reluctant to confirm who would play on Saturday, saying, "We have to analyse Sunderland and make the best decision."

Despite a decent night's work from Defoe in only his second league start, he did not do enough against Fulham to make dropping him a non-option. Villas-Boas has shown faith in Soldado with his perseverance in selecting him. 

A positive result against Sunderland will be Spurs' priority as they look to keep touch with the top four. Those cheering them on will also be hoping to see a display to satisfactorily match it and again build on going forward into Christmas.

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