COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 20th October 2013
VENUE Villa Park






With Villa having Christian Benteke returning, all the talk is about them, which allows Spurs to set about kick starting their season after the last outing against West Ham.  Having beaten Manchester City, the Midlanders are not to be taken lightly and as we know a good record against a side is no guarantee of success this time out.

There is no doubt that Paul Lambert is changing Villa for the better, but how long he gets to do that will depend much on his rise up the table with the side.  Assembling a side with a great deal of young talent, it is his job to harness it into results and with the likes of Matthew Lowton, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph and Gary Gardner.  However, some of these are very raw talents and need nurturing, although they are already first teamers.

Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark and Chris Herd have been playing a couple of seasons at Villa now, but are not regulars; Fellow defenders Enda Stevens and Alan Hutton have been farmed out on loan and with Jores Okore injured, Ron Vlaar is the mainstay of the back four.  Behind them is American keeper Brad Guzan, with Shay Given not even making the bench these days, as Lambert prefers the former Norwich goalie Jed Steer.

The midfield of the Villains is missing the experience of Leukaemia sufferer Stan Petrov, leaving Marc Albrighton as the old head in the middle of the park. Coping without the injured Charles N'Zogbia, the wide position has been claimed by Leandro Bacuna, who has  good delivery from dead or moving ball.  Karim El Hamadi works hard in midfield, as does Yacouba Sylla, but Villa sometimes lack a creative spark to make the chances for the front men.

With Benteke providing the muscle and Agbonlahor the speed, the pair can provide a test for the Spurs defence, with lanky Dane Nicklas Helenius available to prove a handful (of shorts) for the Tottenham defenders.  Libor Kozak from Lazio could als0 be called upon, but it is more likely that Agbonlahor will play a deeper role, with Andreas Weimann in attack.

For the home team, they will be looking out gain revenge for the 0-4 League Cup win Spurs had at Villa Park last month, while Tottenham will be looking to pull Villa's pants down and take three points again.  Villa had a much weakened team out that day, so the result will bear no relation to what might happen in the Premier League game, but Spurs also rested a number of players that day, so Lambert will have been watching our games to see how we might line up, but also how to counter the style that saw up start the season  well.

Expect a packed midfield, plenty of closing down and some strong challenges - particularly on Townsend - in an attempt to put us off our game.  Spurs need to start quickly and keep the tempo up, but might need to find another gear to the one we have been playing in so far this season.  Other teams have found it easy to get people back behind the ball with our slow build up and the need to keep them pegged back will aid our attack, but indirectly, it will help our defence too. 

A tough game is ahead, with Villa's tails up after the Manchester City  home game, but it should be remembered they only drew 0-0 away at Hull last time out.  Goals have proved difficult to come by without Benteke.  That might change, but Spurs also need to find the net more often than they have been doing.  A narrow win, but not without it's worrying moments ... just a regular Spurs game then !!

PREDICTION Aston Villa    1         Tottenham Hotspur    2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Aaron Lennon will be match fit for next week's game with Hull City, while Etienne Capoue and Danny Rose will return to full training next week.  Younes Kaboul still remains side-lined with a thigh injury.  
Christian Benteke is expected to return after a hip injury, but Gary Gardner (back), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N'Zogbia (ankle) are all ruled out for Sunday's game.

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Radio :  
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Aston Villa   0 (0)                                                                                     Tottenham Hotspur  2 (1)
Premier League
Sunday 20th October 2013                                                                                                                    Kick off 16:00
Villa Park
Townsend 31
Soldado 69
Westwood (foul on Holtby)
Agbonlahor (foul on Walker) 58
Delph (foul on Townsend) 90+2


Paulinho (foul on Delph)  38
Dawson (foul on Weimann) 52
Walker (time-wasting) 89
Lennon (foul on Weimann) 90+3

Crowd :   35,391 Weather :  Very heavy rain, followed by sunshine
Referee :  Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent) Assistant Referees :  Mr. H. Lennard, Mr. D. Bryan
Fourth Official :  Mike Jones -
Aston Villa kicked off and played towards the North Stand end in the first half.
Aston Villa : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
  1  Brad GUZAN

14  Antonio LUNA
  4  Ron VLAAR (c)
  Nathan BAKER
  7  Leandro BACUNA

15  Ashley WESTWOOD     
  8  Karim El HAMADI  (18  Mohammed SYLLA 72)
16  Fabian DELPH      

27  Libor KOZAK (20  Christian BENTEKE 61)
10  Andreas WEIMANN
11  Gabriel AGBONLAHOR       (24  Alecksander TONEV 79)

Unused subs: 
13  Jed STEER 
34  Matthew LOWTON
21  Leigh BOWERY
  9  Niklas HELENIUS


  25  Hugo LLORIS

  2  Kyle WALKER     
20  Michael DAWSON (c)     

  8  PAULINHO     

17  Andros TOWNSEND 
14  Lewis HOLTBY (19  Mousa DEMBELE 73)
22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON (  7  Aaron LENNON 77     )

  9  Roberto SOLDADO    (18  Jermain DEFOE 87)

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL

21  Christian ERIKSEN
11  Erik LAMELA

Manager :  Paul Lambert Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   dafabet Shirt sponsor :  Hewlett Packard
Kit Supplier :  Macron Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

AVB made a few changes from the West Ham game, with Sandro replacing Dembele, Lewis Holtby coming in for Christian Eriksen and Chiriches coming into the middle of defence pushing Jan Vertonghen out to left back. It looked as though the Spurs Head Coach was setting up for a battle. 

As the teams came out, the rain started to pelt down and the pitch had already been watered before kick off, so would be slick and mistakes could be the difference between the two teams on a greasy surface.  With Villa having beaten Manchester City last time out at Villa Park, it was surprising to see the swathes of light blue seats between the fans who had turned up. In contrast, the Spurs section was full and in good voice.

The first chance of the match fell to Villa after about three minute, when Dawson couldn't cut out a cross from the right by Luna and it fell to Agbonlahor, who fired his shot over the bar with Dawson throwing himself in front of the Villa striker.  Tottenham's first threat came in the seventh minute, when Vertonghen broke on the left and his low cross was put out for a corner by Bacuna. When it came in, only a flick from a Villa head stopped the unmarked Sandro heading at goal.

A bad foul on Holtby's ankle by Westwood brought a yellow card and ignorant booing for Holtby when he touched the ball afterwards. I am sure the Villa supporters who were there would have been baying for a card if the foul had been on one of their players.  But Spurs were starting slowly, with deliberate passing and Paulinho playing a more advanced role, having Sandro sitting in front of the back four behind him. The latter Brazilian got forward to have a shot at goal when Soldado took the ball down for Sigurdsson to lay it into his path, but Guzan was right behind it.

Hugo Lloris had been having a tough time clearing the ball, with his kicks slicing out of play, but he knew his bearings when Westwood's 20th minute free-kick came in from the left and missed everyone, but the French keeper was down to it to push it wide of the crowded goal-mouth. 

Tottenham's moves were being let down by loose passing and a lack of availability to receive an out ball meant that the play kept coming back at them. The pace was not what Spurs would have wanted, but once more, it looked as if AVB was going for security. It didn't look that way in the 27th minute when Vertonghen was shut down and the ball dropped for Weimann outside the box, whose shot went wide to the right of Lloris' goal.

Play got very scrappy, with Townsend lacking room to get past Bacuna and Spurs passing finding their own players, but hitting them when they were intended for someone else. It all looked a bit too much like the West Ham match all over again. Until a half an hour clicked over on the clock and Spurs worked the ball out right through Holtby and Soldado. It went wider to Townsend and as Soldado and Holtby went for it at the near post, it's flight deceived Guzan and went inside the far post to put Tottenham 1-0 up.

As smoke from a flare that came from the Spurs end and hit the linesman cleared, a bit of pinball outside the box fell to Weimann, who once more fired over from 20 yards out. Ten minutes before half time, Vertonghen's cross was headed at goal by Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he put his unchallenged effort wide.

Delph shot another effort over the bar before being fouled 20 yards from goal, which brought a yellow card for Paulinho much to the delight of the Villa fans. At least they had something to cheer about, as Spurs fans did when Bacuna's shot followed Delph's into the fans behind the goal.

When Spurs did get put under pressure, Weimann broke away on the right and put an early ball across for Kozak, but Dawson slid across to intercept, but when he went to clear, the Czech forward caught his foot and the ball went out for a corner. The Spurs skipper won it and when it came back in, he was shoved to the floor by Delph, missing the cross that came out to Weimann, who fired a foot wide into the side netting.

When Tottenham started to move, especially Paulinho, it opened up the Villa ranks behind the ball. But as the half came to a close, the pace dropped considerably, until Luna got a corner on the Spurs right. Westwood took it, but it was cleared to Delph, who fell to earth once more. This time, Westwood's free kick was acrobatically cleared by Sigurdsson.
Just before the half time whistle, Townsend played the ball into Paulinho on the edge of the box and his back heel was blocked, but as the Brazilian looked to shoot with his left foot, Andros took it off his toe and shot with his left foot that brought a low save to Guzan's right which saw the American just get enough of a fingertip to take the ball out for a corner.
As the players trooped off at half-time in full sunshine, Spurs had the advantage, but had not played great, even though they topped the possession stats.

The play at the start of the second period was scrappy and the first real effort came three minutes in when Townsend cut in from the right and rifled a left foot shot that ended up well wide. A minute or so later, a straightforward throw was flicked behind him by Soldado to Paulinho, who struck a shot that Guzan had to push wide again.

Dawson got a yellow card in the 52nd minute for a foul on Weimann, that gave Westwood the opportunity to fire in a free-kick, which was cleared to El Hamadi, but his effort was a distance too high over the goal. It appears to the Villa fans that their players deserve a free-kick every time they go to ground. They are a strange bunch indeed.

Spurs won the ball when Walker took it off Luna and Townsend's ball across the face of goal was for nobody in a white shirt there to put the ball into the net. Vlaar then had to clear another cross from Andros, with the resulting in Holtby firing the ball way over the top.

Benteke came on for Kozak and the home crowd got excited by something other than a player hitting turf. Vertonghen got caught by a late tackle from El Hamadi on his ankle and that saw him leave space out wide for Bacuna, whose cross in the 64th minute was headed a couple of feet over by Benteke. It was the cue for a succession of high balls to be played into the box for the Belgian striker to attack.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was withdrawn in the 66th minute and Aaron Lennon made his comeback on the left. His first action saw him concede a free-kick for being pushed over by Vlaar !! While the Villa side went aerial Spurs went to ground to go 2-0 up in the 69th minute. Roberto Soldado won the ball on the left corner of the box, it went wide to Holtby, who fed Paulinho, The Brazilian midfielder produced a perfect pass into the Spaniard's path for him to lift it past Guzan from ten yards out. It was a well crafted goal. It was a master goal-scorer's finish giving him his first goal in open play and a typical goal from inside the area for Roberto.

A corner won when Spurs pulled Villa around in the home team's last third saw Paulinho have a header at goal but it went straight at the keeper. Then Townsend had a chance when Baker gave the ball straight to Soldado 30 yards out, but he went for goal rather than trying to pick out a team-mate. The England winger did better 15 minutes from time, when he cut inside Luna and hit a shot like he did against Poland, but this time it was a foot too high.

Weimann tried his luck at the other end, but volleyed across the box instead of at goal and another shot three minutes later ended up in the Holte end. Tottenham should have been three up when Townsend's cross was missed a yard out by Paulinho, who ran into the six yard box, with Bacuna putting a presence in his back. Andros was tormenting Luna, who failed to stem his runs in the second half, almost setting up Soldado for a second after a long run, when he took the ball off Weimann in his own half.

Substitute Tonev put a ball across goal with six minutes left, but it was in vain, as there were no Villa players in the box and then had a 20 yard shot soon after, but it was low and without the power to test Hugo Lloris in front of a large number of light blue empty seats.

Spurs took goal-scorer Soldado off for the last four minutes, with Jermain Defoe replacing him. Meanwhile, the Villa sub Benteke was showing signs of ring-rustiness, his touch not being up to his usual standard and on the ball, he was easier to dispossess.

With 90 minutes up, Villa almost got a shot on goal when Tonev pulled the ball back to Weimann, who had his shot blocked and then Spurs broke, when Luna back-heeled the ball straight at Townsend, but his cross only had Defoe to aim at and he was beaten in the air.

A flurry of late bookings were testament to Dowd's handling of the game, with players building up injustices, but Spurs held onto the ball to see out time and Tottenham returned to the top five in the table.

It was a comfortable win in the end, with Villa lacking any creative spark in midfield as their players were workmanlike, but not able to open Spurs up. Tottenham looked happy to stroke the ball around, even when Villa came with a bit of a charge into the second half and then when Christian Benteke was introduced, but they rode those waves of pressure and constantly broke on Villa's back four and should really have had more goals to show for their work.

At the back, Vertonghen settled well and apart from a couple of minutes when he was running off a kick on the ankle, he looked sound there, willing to attack and in the middle Chiriches read play well and the only criticism of him was that he tried to play too much football in areas where it might not have been best to.  But Paulinho's movement was key to giving Villa problems and Townsend's pace capitalised on the tiring legs of the home players. Holtby did well and Dawson too at the back, with everyone doing a job for the team to ensure not just another win, but another clean sheet.

It's a shame that the headlines may choose to concentrate on the flare thrown from the Spurs section.  It's not only why people take these things to football, but how you get them through the turnstiles, with stewards supposedly checking you for items prohibited from the stadium.

Hull come to the Lane next, so expect lots of yellow and black shirts behind the ball and the hope of a breakaway goal, btu perhaps after today, the team have learned a lesson in making possession count.

Naunton Wayne


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What you thought
Benny The Ball Great to see Andros Townsend carrying on his good form and scoring with a cross !

Thought the Brazilian pairing of Sandro and Paulinho worked especially well and The Beast out in a monster performance, while Paulinho was freed to get further forward.

For all the criticism Soldado is getting from some quarters, he is a class act and showed just that in his finish and his all round play.

While Spurs are not the only club who have people who think it is a good idea to throw smoke bombs/flares,  we will probably be the ones who get punished for it.  What was all that about ?  And you can't even get into Tottenham with a bottle of water these days let alone a canister full of smoke.  Guarantee that we will all get an extra strict search next Sunday.

- -.



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




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 8 6 1 1 18 9 19 +9
2 Chelsea 8 5 2 1 14 5 17 +9
3 Liverpool 8 5 2 1 13 7 17 +6
4 Manchester City 8 5 1 2 20 9 16 +11
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 8 5 1 2 8 5 16 +3
6 Southampton 8 4 3 1 8 2 15 +6
7 Everton 8 4 3 1 12 10 15 +2
8 Manchester United 8 3 2 3 11 10 11 +1
9 Hull City 8 3 2 3 7 9 11 -1
10 Newcastle United 8 3 2 3 11 14 11 -3
11 Swansea City 8 3 1 4 12 11 10 +1
12 West Bromwich Albion 8 2 4 2 7 6 10 +1
13 Aston Villa 8 3 1 4 9 10 10 -1
14 Fulham 8 3 1 4 9 10 10 -1
15 Stoke City 8 2 2 4 3 5 8 -2
16 Cardiff City 8 2 2 4 8 13 8 -2
17 West Ham United 8 2 2 4 8 8 8 0
18 Norwich City 8 2 1 5 6 13 7 -7
19 Crystal Palace 8 1 0 7 6 17 3 -11
20 Sunderland 8 0 1 7 5 20 1 -15

Position before match :  7th
Position after match :  5th
Position after the weekend :  5th

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