OPPONENTS Sunderland
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Saturday 7th December 2013
VENUE Stadium of Light






Having scored three times against Chelsea, Sunderland will have been massively disappointed not to take any more than a beating out of Wednesday's game at the Stadium of Light.  But that result sums up the Black Cats' season so far.  Some spirited performances, but lacking the defensive rigidity to keep out the opposition.

Looking shaky every time Chelsea ran the ball at their back four, the diamond formation in midfield seemed to lack the steel to prevent the oppo being on the back four before they knew it.  With their goal tally fairly modest until Wednesday, the need to keep goals out is perhaps more demanding than the need to score them.  However, sitting bottom two points behind the two teams above them and five behind a place outside the bottom three, perhaps they need to score more too.

With Connor Wickham and Jose Altidore, they have two physically strong strikers who can put the ball in the net, but the number of players who were brought in by former manager Paolo Di Canio has made it difficult for them all to settle quickly.  Spurs are having the same problem, so perhaps it doesn't promise to be a great game in store. American Altidore was brought back to England where he had previously failed to impress at Hull City, after a heavy goal-scoring period in Holland.  It has been seen before that players who are frequent scorers in the Dutch league often fail to replicate their form in England, so the hulking striker will need to work hard at his game to make sure he makes his mark at Sunderland. 

With Wickham out on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, Fabio Borini on loan from Liverpool might feature perhaps playing a withdrawn role, from where he can move forward and score, like he did against Newcastle United (their only other win this season). He has scored a lot playing for Liverpool's Under-21 side, but has not been that effective in the first team, where he has found himself behind Luis Suarez.

However, Tottenham are finding their feet, in a stumbling fashion and have the confidence of two wins and a draw behind them.  Sunderland's recent form shows one win (albeit against Manchester City at the Stadium of Light) and two draws in their last ten fixtures.  Gus Poyet has taken the reins at the club but has been handed a bit of a poisoned chalice, with Di Canio or the Director of Football's choices forming the squad he has to work with.

While Sunderland have found it hard to come by goals, there is one player who just can't stop hitting the net and that is defender Phil Bardsley.  He has been scoring freely at both ends, with a desire to impress the Wearside faithful.  After his picture laying on the floor of a casino covered in bank notes, he was on his way out, but he did enough to persuade Di Canio to keep him and then has been doing well under Poyet, but has a habit of beating his own goalkeeper as often as the opposition's !!

Alongside the former Manchester United man in defence are two other ex-Old Trafford men in John O'Shea and Wes Brown.  Both could probably be classed as veterans, with pace being their biggest weakness, lacking the speed on the turn too could cost them against the likes of Lennon and Townsend if they run at them.  Botha re good in the air at both ends though, but as we rarely threaten in the air, except from set pieces, this may not count for much.  Andrea Dossena returns from suspension after a horrible stamp on Hull's Meyler.  He seems to think this game will be easy for Sunderland, as Spurs are not as good as Chelsea and we will have to see which Tottenham team turns up to see if he is proved right. 

Modiba Diakate and Valentin Roberge

Behind them is former Gooner Vito Mannone, who will only be playing because Kieron Westwood is injured.  Having sold Simon Mingolet to Liverpool, this position was always going to be a problematical one to resolve and the experience that Mannone had at Hull will give him some idea of what to expect, but Spurs need to be more ruthless in their finishing, as Chelsea showed at the Stadium of Light in midweek.

The Sunderland midfield contains a mix of foreign and home-grown players.  Jack Colback went out on the loan route before breaking into the first team at Sunderland, where has puts in a lot of work and can pick out a killer pass, which is also a talent that Emanuele Giaccherini has, although he also has the ability to finish moves off too.  Another who has good movement, he can play in the hole behind a main striker.  Former Birmingham City and Aston Villa man Craig Gardner is another hard worker, with a fierce shot and is good from free-kicks, but is another who might suffer at the legs of Townsend's pace (remember he fouled Bale in the box last season and got away with it, as the ref booked Bale).  Ki Sung-Kueng is another energetic midfielder, who can play the right sided midfield role, but Adam Johnson is sometimes favoured there, as he has good delivery into the box and can come inside to shoot on his left foot.  Seb Larsson is another wide midfielder, who also is deadly from dead-ball situations. 

Then there is always Lee Cattermole, when he's not suspended.

Spurs need to carry on their little run and pick up points where they can.  With a two pronged pace attack on the flanks, they might find some joy, as it will test the Sunderland defence and pin back their midfield, allowing space for the central midfielders to move forward.  This is where they might find most joy and hopefully, Soldado might be able to snaffle something in the box, as the Black Cats defenders had trouble clearing the ball against Chelsea..

Being rock bottom of the Premier League, you would expect this to be a straightforward matter for Spurs to come home with three points, but both sides are much changed from last season, when Tottenham won there, as well as both having a point to prove.  The battling spirit under Poyet could well be enough to win a point for the home team, as they nearly did against Chelsea, but Spurs need to start winning these sort of games to edge them up into the top echelons of the table and they are good away from home, so I think that they will just edge to to heap more disappointment on the Black Cat fans.

PREDICTION Sunderland    1         Tottenham Hotspur    2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Christian Eriksen (ankle), Danny Rose (thigh), Harry Kane (back) and Emmanuel Adebayor (knee), while Jan Vertonghen's late ankle injury on Wednesday makes him an absentee.  Mousa Dembele might be back after suffering a thigh problem, causing him to miss the Fulham game.
A hip injury keeps defender Carlos Cuellar side-lined, while goalkeeper Kieron Westwood's shoulder problem rules him out of the Spurs match.

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Sunderland  1 (1)                                                                                Tottenham Hotspur  2 (1)
Premier League
Saturday 7th December 2013                                                                                                      Kick off 17:30
Stadium of Light
Adam Johnson 37
Paulinho 43
O'Shea (o.g.) 50
Celustka (foul on Naughton)  39
Altidore (foul on Townsend)  87





Crowd :   37,963 Weather :  Chilly, dry
Referee :  Lee Mason (Bolton) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Long; Mr. D. Eaton
Fourth Official :  Martin Atkinson -
Sunderland kicked off and played towards the South Stand end in the first half.
Sunderland : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
25  Vito MANNONE

  2  Phil BARDSLEY
16  John O'SHEA  (o.g.)
5  Wes BROWN
12  Ondrej CELUSTKA        (23  Emanuele GIACCHERINI 77)

  7  Sebastian LARSSON
  Jack COLBACK  (33  Lee CATTERMOLE 67)
4  KI Sung-Keung
11  Adam JOHNSON    (31  Fabio BORINI 67)

  9  Steven FLETCHER
17  Jose ALTIDORE      

Unused subs: 
13  Jordan PICKFORD
  3  Andrea DOSSENA
8  Craig GARDNER
21  Modiba DIAKITE

  25  Hugo LLORIS

  2  Kyle WALKER
20  Michael DAWSON

19  Mousa DEMBELE  (30  SANDRO)

  7  Aaron LENNON
  8  Lewis HOLTBY  (17  Andros TOWNSEND 79)
21  Nacer CHADLI  (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 84)

18  Jermain DEFOE

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FREIDEL

35  Zeki FRYERS
11  Erik LAMELA
  9  Roberto SOLDADO

Manager :  Gus Poyet Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   Bidvest Shirt sponsor :  Hewlett Packard
Kit Supplier :  adidas Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

With the pressure building on Andre Villas-Boas (mainly from outside the club, unless you believe the papers), Spurs looked to add to their recent string of good results at the Stadium of Light and facing old boy Gus Poyet in charge of a team at the bottom of the table, Spurs managed to play well in a 2-1 win, which showed the players giving a gritty performance, but one of control in taking all three points from their trip to the North-East.

Injuries conspired to force AVB into changes at the back with both Vlad Chiriches and Jan Vertonghen missing from Wednesday's line-up and Younes Kaboul out too. The Coach stuck with Defoe up top and brought in Chadli on the left, with Holtby keeping his place after scoring the late winner at Fulham.

Gus Poyet chose to play Adam Johnson wide on the right, with Larsson on the left to provide the supply for the two strikers in their 4-4-2 formation.

The play in the early stages was cautious from both sides, with Spurs trying to probe with their passing, while Sunderland looked to the strength of Altidore and Fletcher in attack. It took until the 13th minute for a serious shot at goal, with Paulinho hitting a drive from 30 yards out that dipped just over the bar, with Mannone not expecting the effort to come in.
A few minutes later Bardsley sent along ball over the Tottenham defence and Steven Fletcher latched onto it and got a shot away from the left side 22 yards out, but it went across Lloris and wide. Play moved to the other end and Lewis Holtby tested Mannone with a drive fro a similar distance, with the keeper pushing it wide, even though it looked like it was off target anyway.

Chances were coming quickly and Fletcher turned past Paulinho to feed Altidore, who played in Jack Colback, but his shot from an angle to the left flew well over, as he failed to settle himself before shooting.

In the 21st minute, Spurs moved the ball around well, after slowing it down in the previous move and Lennon dinked a ball over the defence for Paulinho to run into the right hand side of the box and his shot was blocked out for a corner. Another corner came from it, which was cleared and then it was worked to Holtby, who shot, but muffed it wide.

The ground shook in Sunderland's next break, when Altidore tried to take on Walker for pace and the England defender shepherded the ball out and the American flew over the advertising hoarding with an audible thump. He wasn't happy about it, but he should have taken evasive action.

Spurs broke, but the move broke down, so Sunderland broke and that broke down, with Bardsley holding his hamstring as play moved back towards his goal. It ended with a shot by Defoe, but again, it was scuffed wide from the edge of the box.

Lennon blocked a shot by Bardsley and it went to Defoe. It went back to Aaron and his cross caused a moment of concern for the home defence, but it was cleared. The game was moving from end to end very quickly and only an over-hit cross by Altidore failed to pick out Fletcher.

The home crowd had started the match very vociferously, but as the half went on, it quietened down and the empty seats in the home sections made themselves heard. They didn't like free-kicks being given against them, but did like people blocking Spurs clearances.

A move down the right involving Walker, Lennon, Holtby and Paulinho won a corner, from which Chadli won a header in the centre of the goal, but it went straight into Mannone's hands. The Belgian did better when a ball through was flicked on to Defoe, who ran from left to right across the face of the box to hit a shot that O'Shea blocked for another corner.
In the 36th minute, Spurs worked the ball from halfway and Chadli passed to Dembele, who set up Holtby and only a block on his shot prevented him testing Mannone again. Then Spurs were behind. A long cross from the right saw Lloris go to punch it out, but stretching, he only succeeded in dropping it down to Adam Johnson, who took a touch and rifled it into the roof of the net from the left of the six yard box with 37 minutes gone.

It was the first shot the Black Cats had got on target. And it would be another test to see if Spurs could come back from a goal behind.

It didn't take long to answer that question.  A cynical pull on Lennon as he went past Colback on our right was played in long to the far post, where Chadli won a header back into the six yard box and the ball was stabbed in by Paulinho to level things up in the 44th minute.

Hugo Lloris made up for his error a little when he beat out a shot from 25 yards from Celustka on the right, then on 45 minutes, Holtby did well to win the ball on the left, moved it on to Dembele and Paulinho's shot was deflected narrowly wide and from the corner, Chadli's header landed on top of the net.

After half-time, Spurs started pressing Sunderland players on the ball and when they got possession in their own half, they broke down the left five mionutes after the restart and Dembele was tracked back by Colback. However, the midfielder failed to stop Mousa going past him on the outside and his low ball into the box was flicked into the goal by a cheeky back-heel behind his standing leg by John O'Shea. It was a little lucky, but a well created chance and Spurs were in front.

What followed was a good spell of pressure by Spurs, with Holtby having a shot deflected wide and then Chadli playing in Lennon on the right and getting to the dead ball line, before crossing for Defoe to put a header against the near post. Then Lennon cut in from the right to shoot low at goal and although the ball was blocked, Paulinho missed his kick eight yards out when the ball ricocheted in front of him.

Sunderland enjoyed a good passage of possession, but it was all in their own last third and Spurs were holding onto the ball reasonably well, but looked a little too content to play flicks and tricks, which handed it to Sunderland.  And there was an interesting change in tactics by Sunderland in the second half when Spurs were ahead. In the first period when the home team lead, the ball boys jumped over the advertising boards and then left the ball and jumped back to their seats, but when Spurs were winning, they were very quick to get the ball back to the players in stripes. Cheating ? Well, not really observing any sort of fair play was it.

A fine move with Dembele, holding off the foul attempts by Altidore, passing infield from the right to Holtby and his perceptive through ball found Defoe getting in behind the defence. He took his shot from the right of the box and it beat Mannone, but went wide of the far post.

Sunderland tried to shore things up by bringing Cattermole on to protect the back four and break down Tottenham's moves. Borini came on too to add some more urgency up front. Fletcher flashed a header from 16 yards out wide to the right of Lloris' goal. After this, Spurs started to drop deep and try to crowd out Sunderland's attack. Sandro came on in the 73rd minute, replacing Dembele.

Sunderland won a couple of quick corners, following a shot straight at Mannone by Holtby, the second of which brought cries for a penalty when the ball struck Sandro's arm away from his body. It looked a decent shout to tell the truth, but then so did Gardner's foul on Bale last season there.

Celustka came off to be replaced by Giaccerini in an attacking move, but Larsson had to drop back to right back. Spurs made an attacking change too, with Andros Townsend coming on for Lewis Holtby, who had run himself into the ground.

Andros' first involvement saw him race away on the left, slid in by Chadli and his low ball into the near post saw Jermain flick the ball at goal and it rebounded back off the post. When Sunderland went forward, a scramble in the area saw a corner given, when it looked as though Altidore had the last touch.  From it, the ball was cleared and a high ball lumped in that dropped for Borini, but his snap-shot was straight at Lloris with the whole goal to aim at.  But Spurs nearly wrapped it up in the 83rd minute, when Townsend out-stripped Larsson for pace and crossed to the near post, where Paulinho raced in to head at goal, but put it wide, when almost anything on target would have made it 3-1. Sigurdsson came on for Chadli as Spurs attempted to see out the game.

As Sunderland pushed forward for an equaliser, Fletcher pulled back Capoue and the cross was pushed out at the near post by Lloris, where Dawson completed the clearance as Borini closed in. In the last minute, with most of the home supporters on their way back to their homes, a corner came in and was headed out, which then went for a throw. They worked a cross on the right wing and it found Fletcher climbing all over Walker, but it went over the bar.

Five added minutes were shown on the fourth official's board and the home crowd (or what was left of it) got a bit excited, but it was soon the Spurs fans singing that could be heard. Bardsley headed over from 16 yards out, but the next attack was Tottenham's, where Defoe held the ball up on the right, with a series of passes ending with Townsend hitting a shot that Mannone tipped over. From the corner, Spurs found space too easily and Andros played in Paulinho on the right and his low ball across the six yard box was in front of Defoe, but he didn't go for it, thinking he would be offside.

When Lloris came to take the ball from Fletcher's weak header on, the game came to an end and Spurs might have ridden their luck, but they have had enough go against them to be due some of their own. 22 shots, two efforts against the post and enough possession to make it more. But a win and three points pushed them up to sixth again.

So, is it a case of crisis, what crisis ?  Or will next week's game against Liverpool at the Lane throw us back into turmoil ?

Stayed tuned for more of the same !!

Thomas Dillon


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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Crystal Palace 2 Cardiff City 0 Saturday
Liverpool 4 West Ham United 1 Saturday
Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 1 Saturday
Southampton 1 Manchester City 1 Saturday
Stoke City 3 Chelsea 2 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Norwich City 2 Saturday
Arsenal 1 Everton 1 Sunday
Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0 Sunday
Swansea City 1 Hull City 1 Monday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 15 11 2 2 30 11 35 +19
2 Liverpool 15 9 3 3 34 18 30 +16
3 Chelsea 15 10 3 3 30 17 30 +13
4 Manchester City 15 9 2 4 41 15 29 +26
5 Everton 15 7 7 1 23 14 28 +9
6 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 15 8 3 4 15 16 27 -1
7 Newcastle United 15 8 2 5 20 21 26 -1
8 Southampton 15 6 5 4 19 13 23 +6
9 Manchester United 15 6 4 5 22 19 22 +3
10 Swansea City 15 5 4 6 21 20 19 +1
11 Aston Villa 15 5 4 6 16 18 19 -2
12 Hull City 15 5 3 7 13 19 18 -6
13 Stoke City 15 4 4 7 14 18 17 -4
14 Norwich City 15 5 2 8 14 28 17 -14
15 West Bromwich Albion 15 3 6 6 17 21 15 -4
16 Cardiff City 15 3 5 7 11 22 14 -11
17 West Ham United 15 3 4 8 13 19 13 -6
18 Fulham 15 4 1 10 14 26 13 -12
19 Crystal Palace 15 4 1 10 10 22 13 -12
20 Sunderland 15 2 2 11 12 30 8 -19

Position before match :  7th
Position after match :  6th
Position after the weekend :  6th

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