Tottenham V Blackburn Preview: Make Or Break for Gomes
This afternoon could be one of the most important in Tottenham's recent history as they bid to retain the top-flight status they have for so long taken for granted.
Spurs come up against a Blackburn side woefully out-of-sorts at White Hart Lane this afternoon, and anything but a win will send the alarm bells ringing again. Especially in light of the insipid performance at Fulham last weekend that reminded Harry Redknapp that there is a lot of hard work still to be done.
In such a competitive league, it is vital that any team avoids successive defeats, as we have seen that three points won or lost can be the difference between finding yourselves in contention for Europe or looking anxiously over your shoulders at a possible relegation scrap.
The big difference in Tottenham's play, until the no-show at Craven Cottage, has been a sense of purpose and freedom in their attitude to offensive situations. The midfield players have linked up more effectively with the front players who, in turn, have re-discovered their goalscoring touch.
Huddlestone has showed that he is a players of substantial calibre and Fraizer Campbell could soon be in contention for the next round of senior Euro 2010 qualifiers: he has four goals in his last three appearances. Darren Bent, a half-time substitute in England's impressive victory in Berlin, is proof enough that goals will get you places under Capello's watchful eye.
Redknapp will be wary, however, that other players need to start contributing goals—Bent has scored nearly half of the team's goals in the competition.
Tottenham's problem remains their defensive frailties, a real concern when you look at the investment that has been made into recruitment in this area. In Ledley King's continued absence, their first-choice defensive line cost chairman Daniel Levy an astonishing £40 million. Yet they continue to leak more than 1.5 goals per game.
One area opposing managers have targeted is set pieces. This has been a thorn in the side of Redknapp's team. Tottenham concede more goals from corners than any other side in the League. Paul Ince will look to Roque Santa Cruz and Christopher Samba, real aerial threats, to capitalise on this.
Gomes' misgivings are much talked about but experienced British players like Hutton, Dawson, and Woodgate are not without blame. two clean sheets in 13 games is not top-half of the table form.
In fact, Gomes ranks as Tottenham's second best player behind Jermaine Jenas this season according to the respected statistical engine The Actim Index.
While the Brazilian stopper's handling is poor, this factor would not have been so decisive to the outcome of several matches if players such as Zokora, Dawson, and Hutton didn't continue to commit silly fouls in dangerous areas.
Spurs will need to be more savvy in this aspect of their play against a physical Blackburn team. They will also need to be quicker out of the blocks than they have been this season. They, like Blackburn, have scored more league goals in the last 10 minutes of league matches this season than in the entire first-half.
Both sets of fans can expect a nerve-wrangling afternoon. The home fans should have the last (late) laugh here though.
Tottenham 3-2 Blackburn
Johnathan Woodgate v Roque Santa Cruz
The Spurs defender needs to show authority and composure against a prolific Paraguayan who will threaten most defenses he faces.
Heurelho Gomes v Himself
Will we see Jekyll or Hyde. Gomes could win or lose a tight game with a brilliant save or moment of madness.
Subs from: Sanchez, Hutton, Gunter, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto, Zokora, Ghaly, Lennon, Pavlyuchenko
Robinson;Ooijer,Samba,Nelson,Warnock;Villanueva,Andrews,Mokoena,Pedersen;Santa Cruz, Roberts
Subs from: Brown, Simpson, Khizanishvili, Olsson, Tugay, Roberts, McCarthy, Derbyshire
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