OPPONENTS Cardiff City
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 2nd March 2014
VENUE White Hart Lane






With Craig Bellamy returning for the Bluebirds, they will be hoping that he will be a talisman that helps keep them up.  They signed a few players in the January transfer window to help new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have a better chance to avoid relegation.  But how they fit in will take time to see how that ends up and last week's 0-4 home defeat by Hull last week indicates that there may be a tough fight ahead of the South Wales club.

They arrive at White Hart lane to face a Spurs team fresh from a confidence boosting 3-1 win over Dnipro in the Europa League, so with Tim Sherwood instilling a winning mentality among the players, they must add consistency to their game, with last week's 0-1 reverse at Norwich City an example of losses they cannot afford if they want to achieve their targets.  After Thursday's game, I think we will see man of the match Christian Eriksen start in the playmaker's role, with Sherwood having to fit other players around him. 

A familiar face will be found among the Cardiff ranks, with Steven Caulker taking a central defensive position and he has worn the armband for his new club too.  Dominant in the air and adept with the ball at his feet, he has found it difficult with all the work that has come his way, but has done well in his game, having left Spurs to play regularly which has earned him an England call-up for the next friendly.  Alongside him, Ben Turner is a towering youngster, who sometimes gets pulled around by more experienced Premier League forwards, leaving the full backs to come inside to cover.  Kevin Theophile-Catherine works hard and tries to get forward, but should have his work cut out defending against whichever pacy winger Spurs put out on the right wing.  Declan John has been performing well at right back, but Solskjaer might plump for the more experienced Fabio, a January signing from Manchester United.  There is a not a huge amount of top level experience in their defensive ranks and that might be showing as the season goes along.

Up front, Wilfried Zaha is on loan from Man U, while a former Man U forward who was on loan here might play in the shape of Frazier Campbell.  Both are slightly built, with Zaha being very skilful and Campbell more direct, but Craig Noone has been scoring a few for Cardiff from a striker's position and might be considered a better bet to notch than Campbell.  Noone has more of a physical presence to unsettle the Tottenham defence.  Bellamy might play a little deeper than forward, as his prompting might be more effective, than being an out and out striker, although he will have a lot of work to do in midfield against Spurs, if our midfielders function properly. 

Goalkeeper David Marshall has been playing very well this season, keeping the goals conceded down to a reasonable level, but as Spurs did on Thursday night, in the second half, the shots on target were few, but it tests the goalie and he can't keep them all out, so the moral is to make sure you hit it between the post and under the bar. 

The midfield area of the Cardiff squad is probably notable for another loan player being one of their stars, with Kim Bo-Kyung earning good reviews.  Spending a season in South Wales from Sunderland, he is industrious and likes getting forward, as does Jordan Mutch.  Formerly of Birmingham City, Mutch is a dogged battler with some skill and also an eye for goal.    Chilean Gary Medel is the destroyer in midfield, with a reputation for tough tackling and chair kicking off the pitch, he hasn't set the Premier League alight this season, but can be effective, so Spurs will need to move the ball quickly around him.  Arun Gunarsson also works hard to stop the opposition playing, but he likes to get wide and try to break into the area.

Some of the players Solskjaer has brought in are for the future from his former club or country, but whether they are ones for now, would be a tough baptism if he did pay them and they might be thrown in next season.  If that happens to be in the Championship, it might be even more problematical for them.

As for Spurs, there are still injuries which hamper team selection, but the players who have come in have made the transition almost seamless, with Sandro's return especially noticeable in protecting our back four.  Eriksen and Dembele could be influential in how this game turns out.  With Adebayor in good form and it only being a question of time before Roberto Soldado gets on the score-sheet, Spurs should be able to gain the points to keep them up in the top five, but Cardiff are desperate and may resort to desperate measures to make it difficult for Tottenham.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2         Cardiff City    1
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Spurs are without Erik Lamela and Vlad Chiriches with back injuries and knee knocks keep Danny Rose and Etienne Capoue out.  Kyle Walker and Gylfi Sigurdsson face late fitness tests.
Craig Bellamy returns from suspension, while Jordan Mutch faces a late fitness test on his hamstring.

Match of the Day 2  (BBC 2) - Sunday 22.35 - 23.35 (highlights)  Also available online.

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (1)                                                                 Cardiff City  0 (0)
Premier League
Sunday 2nd March 2014                                                                                                                  Kick off 16:30
White Hart Lane
Soldado 28 None
Sandro (time wasting) 88



Bo-Kyung (foul on Fryers)  12
Bellamy (dissent)  12
Cala (dissent) 90+5 


Crowd :   35,515 Weather :  Chilly, with rain showers
Referee :  Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Bennett; Mr. S. Burt
Fourth Official :  R. East -
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Game time : -  90+5 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Cardiff City : kit
25  Hugo LLORIS

20  Michael DAWSON
32  Zeki FRYERS

  7  Aaron LENNON
  8  PAULINHO (30  SANDRO 73)
19  Mousa DEMBELE
17  Andros TOWNSEND (21  Nacer CHADLI 70)

  9  Roberto SOLDADO  (37  Harry KANE 83)
10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL
42  Nabil BENTALEB

    1  David MARSHALL

35  FABIO  (  9  Kenwyne JONES 73)
  4  Steven CAULKER (c)
  6  Ben TURNER
42  Declan JOHN

27  Juan CALA     
  8  Gary MEDEL
13  KIM Bo-Kyung     
17  Aron GUNNARSSON  (29  Mats DAEHLI 63)

10  Frazier CAMPBELL
39  Craig BELLAMY       (18  Jordan MUTCH 63)

Unused subs: 
32  Joe LEWIS
19  Don COWIE
36  Wilfried ZAHA

Manager :  Tim Sherwood Manager :  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Sponsor :   Hewlett Packard Shirt sponsor :  Malaysia
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

Tottenham's 1-0 victory was not much to write home about, but was achieved by hard graft, with none putting more in than Aaron Lennon, although they were the width of a crossbar away from losing two of the the three points they earned.

And it was former centre-half Steven Caulker, who captained the Bluebirds today, who almost robbed us of the win, smacking a header against the woodwork from a couple of yards out from a corner just after Tottenham had scored.  But anything other than a Spurs win would have been unjust, as Cardiff showed just why they are in the position they are in.  The lack of attacking intent was evident in the Welsh side's play and whether this was a consequence of their plight or the lack of quality in the team, I don't know.  Leaving Wilfried Zaha on the bench was an odd one, as the young player has talent, but maybe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fears it is not able to be harnessed for the benefit of the team.

Tim Sherwood was without Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches, Kyle Walker and Christian Eriksen, all struck down by the back injury curse that is sweeping the club.  Back in came Paulinho and Lennon to start, while Townsend took a place on the right wing and Zeki Fryers and Kyle Naughton filled the left and right back roles respectively. With there having been light showers before the game, the pitch would be slick and should have suited Tottenham's passing game.

Getting the match underway, Spurs started at a good pace.  It was Lennon's speed that got him free on the right straight from the kick off and his fast cross was met by Roberto Soldado at the near post, but as it was knee high, it was difficult to do anything than get something on it, but the ball flashed wide of the near post in doing so.  A minute later, Fryers set up Townsend, but his shot was pulled narrowly wide across the goal.  Cardiff came back with a free-kick by Bellamy that went way too high over Lloris' goal and then he broke on the left wing, tried to play in Fabio, but his cut back was blocked by Michael Dawson.  Then, when they attacked next time, Kim slid in very late on Fryers, earning a booking from the referee, when it could have been worse.  However, not content to let a decision against his team go without comment, Craig Bellamy mouthed off at Phil Dowd, who produced the yellow card without hesitation.  The former Welsh international continued his tirade at the match official and Dowd turned reaching for another yellow and then a red card, but then bottled it and spoke to Caulker to tell him to calm Bellamy down.  Whatever happened to the Respect campaign and referees standing up to dissent aimed at them ?

Fryers fizzed in a ball from the left, but it was just too far ahead of Adebayor before Andros hit a shot that Marshall had to beat out as it looked like it would go inside his right hand post.  When a Spurs corner was nodded back by Soldado to Dawson, he shaped to hit a volley.  What a goal this would be !!  If only it had hit the target, instead of going a couple of yards wide.  Daws went close from the next corner, in the 21st minute, getting across his marker at the near post to glance a header wide of the far post.

When Cardiff won a free-kick on their left wing, it looked as though it might be a dangerous situation to defend.  The ball came in, Lloris punched to the edge of the area, unconvincingly, but Naughton won a 50-50 ball and it dropped for Townsend to nod the ball down to his feet and then he was on his bike.  Racing away, he played the ball left to Adebayor, who waited for Soldado to make his run into the area and slipped the ball between Caulker and Cala for the Spaniard to take a touch and then glide a volley with his right foot to Marshall's left and hit the net.  The crowd erupted in a primal scream for the striker, who they were willing to do well and to score his first home Premier League goal from open play, his name was sung and he was applauded all the way back to the halfway line, after his team-mates had swamped him in celebration.

With Cardiff's next attack, Dawson cut out a low cross that was heading into the path of Campbell for a corner, which Bellamy swung in and as Lloris was being obstructed by Gunnarsson, he could not come for the punch, leaving Caulker a free header.  The defender could not get over the ball, but from point blank range smacked his header against the bar and the ball came out.  When Fabio got a chance to cling the ball in from the right, his cross was heavily sliced by Vertonghen, with the ball flying over the bar, when it could have gone anywhere.  Jan redeemed himself shortly after, when he slid in to intercept a through ball that would have sent Bellamy in on Lloris.  Then, five minutes before the break, Hugo had to be alert when Medel sent Declan John away down the left wing.  Cutting in at the end of his run, he hit a shot that was powerful and on target, with the Frenchman showing good strength in saving with both hands, before kicking the ball behind as he fell as the full back went for the rebound.

Spurs almost repeated the trick from a Cardiff corner before half-time, when a three man break ended with Dembele shooting just wide.

The interval included an interview with Adam Richman, the 'Man v Food' guy and his love and passion was eloquently expounded in a way that only an American could.  He had obviously been so taken with Spurs, when he choose to support them that he had looked at the history and tradition of the club, soaking up every drop to become a true Lilywhite.

Unfortunately for him and for us, the second half was a dull affair.  Six minutes after the restart, there looked to be a decent shout for a penalty, as Naughton's pass inside John for Lennon saw the winger shoulder-charge him off the ball and then get tripped as he looked to break on goal.  The foul was right on the right hand corner of the area, but Dowd pointed for a free-kick and not a spot-kick.  Townsend swung the ball at the top corner from the set piece, but it lacked any power and Marshall made an easy save.  Andros had a mad ten minutes just after this, when he ranted at Fryers when he didn't get the pass he wanted; gave away a cheap free-kick when Cardiff were under pressure in their own half and then ran and hit s shot that went a yard wide, with players in better positions.

The next chance came with a minute of normal time left, with substitute Harry Kane being freed on the left side of the box by Nacer Chadli, also on off the bench, when Spurs broke on Cardiff pushing for an equaliser, but the striker tried to take it with the outside of his right foot instead of his left and while he kept it low. it gave Marshall the chance to block it with his legs.  An even better break came with Lennon racing away down the left and then cutting inside towards the D, but as he had players waiting to receive the ball, he played it straight to a red shirt.

The final whistle was a relief in the end, with a vital three points keeping us in touch with the top four at least.  With Manchester city winning the League Cup, the Europa League qualification will probably go down to sixth position, but our ambitions are higher than that.  Only in the next four games in the league will we find out how close we really are to realising those ambitions.  We will have to play a lot better than this against the top four clubs to catch or overtake them.

Burton Bradstock


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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Fulham 1 Chelsea 3 Saturday
Everton 1 West Ham United 0 Saturday
Hull City 1 Newcastle United 4 Saturday
Southampton 0 Liverpool 3 Saturday
Stoke City 1 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 4 Norwich City 1 Sunday
Swansea City 1 Crystal Palace 1 Sunday
League Cup Final
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1 Sunday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 28 19 6 3 52 22 63 +30
2 Liverpool 28 18 5 5 73 35 59 +38
3 Arsenal 28 18 5 5 52 28 59 +24
4 Manchester City 26 18 3 5 69 27 57 +42
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 28 16 5 7 37 33 53 +4
6 Everton 27 13 9 5 38 27 48 +11
7 Manchester United 27 13 6 8 43 31 45 +12
8 Newcastle United 28 13 4 11 37 39 43 -2
9 Southampton 28 10 9 9 38 34 39 +4
10 West Ham United 28 8 7 13 31 35 31 -4
11 Aston Villa 28 8 7 13 31 38 31 -7
12 Swansea City 28 7 8 13 37 41 29 -4
13 Hull City 28 8 6 14 30 35 30 -5
14 Stoke City 28 7 8 13 27 39 30 -12
15 Crystal Palace 27 8 3 16 19 39 27 -18
16 Norwich City 28 7 7 14 21 43 28 -22
17 West Bromwich Albion 27 4 13 10 31 39 25 -8
18 Sunderland 26 6 6 14 26 42 24 -16
19 Cardiff City 28 5 7 16 19 49 22 -30
20 Fulham 28 6 3 19 28 62 21 -34


Position before match :  5th
Position after match :  5th
Position after the weekend :  5th

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