SPURS UP NEXT IN THE LEAGUE

By Rowan Farnham-Long
Aug 29th, 2008

This was going to be Tottenham’s year. This was going to be their time to shine. It would be the season where they finally broke into the hegemonic Premier League’s “big four”, bringing fame and fortune and a spot in the illustrious Champions League. They had made the signings, they had a top manager in place, they had the world at their feet.

Then they let Robbie Keane go. Then Dimitar Berbatov got upset and they stopped picking him. Then they realised they only had Darren Bent up front. Then they lost to Middlesbrough. Then they lost to Sunderland. Now they sit 17th in the table after two games, two defeats, and only two goals scored.

So, who do relegation candidates Tottenham play next? That’s right, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge! And we are practically rubbing our hands together in glee. Spurs have certainly not shone yet in this embryonic stage of the season, and now we have the chance to inflict a third defeat on them already and obliterate their ambitions. Who else can’t wait?

After breezing past Portsmouth on the opening weekend, last Sunday saw more of a struggle against Wigan but ultimately, another three points. With John Mikel Obi injured for the Latics game, Michael Essien stepped into the holding midfield berth, but the Nigerian should be available for selection against Spurs, leaving Luis Felipe Scolari with a minor selection headache. There are reportedly slight injuries for Joe Cole and Ashley Cole while Didier Drogba is still out, but there could be a place in the squad for Brazilian forward Robinho, if his on/off/on/off/off/on/off again/on/off transfer from Real Madrid ever goes through.

Spurs meanwhile are busy in the transfer market too, as they attempt to force through the signing of Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in time for Sunday’s game. He arrived at Heathrow airport on Friday morning and could be set to lead Spurs’ forward line at the Bridge. With Berbatov already dreaming of playing alongside Rooney, Ronaldo and, er, Rodrigo Possebon at Manchester United, Spurs desperately need some focused firepower up front, and Pavlyuchenko could well bring the goals to rocket Tottenham up to at least 16th in the table.

Only Alan Hutton (Ashley Cole’s mate) is reported as injured, while summer signings Luka Modric, David Bentley, and ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes will be looking to improve their average starts to the season. Our old nemesis Jonathan Woodgate should line up alongside Ledley King in defence, while impressive youngster Giovanni Dos Santos – apparently a one-time Chelsea target – could make a cameo appearance from the bench.

This game last season saw the Blues win 2-0, with a trademark (!) Juliano Belletti goal followed by a late Shaun Wright-Phillips strike handing Chelsea the points in what was Nicolas Anelka’s debut. Chelsea’s record against Spurs is highly impressive (ignoring a few recent high-profile blips), and haven’t lost against them at Stamford Bridge since February 1990.

With an 83 game unbeaten record in home league fixtures to defend, Chelsea will be going all out to win. Hopefully we will see the free-flowing midfield performance which we saw in the last Bridge game against Pompey, rather than the stifled, scrapping win over Wigan. However, if someone offered me 1-0 right now, I would probably take it! Because it’s Spurs, you get the feeling something bad could happen, but with Scolari’s Chelsea boasting a 100% record and boundless potential, surely Spurs will be just another stepping stone on the road to success for the Blues. The big four isn’t ready for a fifth just yet.

Prediction: I’ve already joked with a Spurs-supporting mate that a Woodgate header will probably win it, but ignoring my pessimistic attitude, it’s got to be a win for Chelsea! Spurs seem to have no real cohesion yet and are struggling to play how boss Juande Ramos wants them to, so we will take advantage of their poor start to the season and win 2-0. 3-0 if they’re as bad as they seem to be!

Chelsea V Tottenham kicks-off at 1:30 PM on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge.

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