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Premier League

Tuesday 26th December 2006

With the Christmas period off to a sickening start for Spurs with a heavy defeat and the loss of Jermain Defoe, it could spell disaster for any hopes we might have had to make progress up the league ... and with the cup competitions coming up in the next month or two, it does not bode well there either.

But apart from that, I hope you had a good Christmas !!

Villa arrive on the back of seven winless games and Martin O'Neill will be looking to set that right, with a hard working display to put Spurs under pressure at home, where we normally play so well.  It will not be an easy task and the midfield of Zokora, Ghaly, Davids and Huddlestone will need to pit their legs against those of the Villa side, which might be strengthened by the return of Gavin McCann, who is not afraid to put his foot in.

There is a youthful look about the Villa side, with Steven Davis, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Peter Whittingham and Gary Cahill all featuring of late, but there are some old stagers, such as Stilian Petrov, Juan Pablo Angel and Olaf Mellberg.  For Tottenham, the pace of Lennon will be a big miss in taking on the Villa defence, but Berbatov might be able to take advantage (given the service) of the lack of mobility of the two visiting central defenders.

Our full backs will need to be vigilant to stop crosses coming into the box, which is something they have not been brilliant at this season so far.  By building from the back, we should be able to pull the Villa side out of the shape that MO'N sets them up in and I think that if we take our chances, we could run out winners ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Aston Villa  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Teemu Tainio (ankle); Robbie Keane (knee); Jermaine Jenas (ankle); Aaron Lennon (knee); Paul Stalteri (knee); Jermain Defoe (knee)

ASTON VILLA :  Stuart Taylor (knee); Thomas Sorensen (knee); Martin Laursen (knee); Mark Delaney (knee); Luke Moore (shoulder)


Sky Sports 1 -  Football First 20.25 (highlights)
Match of the Day (BBC 1) - 23.15 (highlights) ... repeated at 09.00 on Wednesday 27.12.2006
For coverage in all parts of the world, check here and here

Radio :  
BBC LONDON 94.9FM (London area only), Digital Radio (London area only) &  Sky Channel 0152
 (live coverage)
BBC Radio Five Live 606/939 MW

If available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard in these countries on these stations ...
Australia (Melbourne) SEN  -  116 AM  Live Transmissions: TWI, Saturday. 12.45 & 1500 matches
Australia (Sydney)  Radio 2  -  1611AM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 12.45 Match
Singapore Media Corp Radio  -  93.8 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
South Africa  SABC (Radio 2000)  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
Uganda  Radio 1 (English) 90.0 FM, Radio 2 (Lugandan) 87.9 FM  Live Transmission: TWI, Saturday, 15.00 Match
North America (USA, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean)  Sirius Satellite Radio  Live transmission: Saturday - 12.45, 15.00 (TWI) & 17.15 (BBC) Sunday - 14.00 & 16.05 (BBC) Mon, Tue, Wed - Various times (BBC)

Internet :   Live webcast  - subscribers only
BBC London - click on link to "Listen to Tottenham Hotspur live commentary" on top right hand menu.




Tottenham Hotspur   2    Aston Villa   1      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Tuesday 26th December 2006
Kick Off :  1.00 p.m.
Crowd :   35,293
Referee :  Uriah Rennie (Sheffield)
Weather :  -  Chilly, dry
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :


King (c)

Ghaly (Murphy 69)

Defoe (Davenport 89)

Unused subs: 

Aston Villa :


Mellberg (Osbourne 46)
Hughes (Ridgewell 36)

Petrov (Bouma 46)


Unused subs: 

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  Aston Villa
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Defoe 58
Defoe 77

Aston Villa

Barry 81

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Malbranque (foul)  


Aston Villa

McCann (foul)
Cahill (foul)    


Match Report : -  
Boxing Day used to be typified by a rumbustuous game between two London sides, so fans didn't have to travel too far.  Nowadays, because of the cost of and the lack of Police cover, the opponents have to come from outside the capital and thus some of the impetus behind the festive game is lost.  Also, the atmosphere is not the same when the away club take up their whole allocation, but only sell 60% of it.  Vast tracts of blue seats do not add to the experience and I can sympathise with Villa fans facing an early start and a long trek down to the Smoke for a 1.00 p.m. kick off off the back of seven games without a win, but all it meant was a flat atmosphere and a game of football that hardly inspired any great excitement.

Villa came and offered exactly what you thought they would.  Organised and hard-working, with some tough tackling, you could have stuck blue shirts on them with Walkers adverts on the front and you could have been transported back six years to a game against Leicester City.

Sometimes, just sometimes, do you ever think that some people in football are wearing the King's new clothes ?  Martin O'Neill had done well with limited resources at Leicester, but that doesn't make him a footballing genius.  He won the SPL title and got Celtic to a UEFA Cup final.  Fine achievements, but the quality of the Scottish league, means it is not of the same standing as the EPL and reaching the UEFA Cup final puts him on the same level as Steve McClaren.

There is no doubt that he is a good man-motivator, but are his tactics that hot ?  Remember the deployment of some long-forgotten Leicester defender to stifle David Ginola in the League Cup Final of 1999 ?  Did it result in a Leicester win ?  No.  Because it screwed up their own attacking intentions.

So, what did we see today ?  A side set up to try to steam-roller through the midfield, with James Nesbitt look-a-like Gavin McCann playing the role of Robbie Savage.  With Gabriel Agbonlahor trying to knock Ledley King over every time he went near the ball and having had previous for going down under challenge at Villa Park to win a penalty, his frequent flopping led to Uriah Rennie being sucked into giving him a series of cheap free-kicks.  Milan Baros was the darting Steve Claridge, Gary Cahill starred as Matt Elliott, Olaf Mellberg as Steve Walsh and Craig Gardner as Neil Lennon.

Luckily for Spurs, the result was not the same as many of those games against the Foxes, as we have moved on.  Not a long way in some respects, but in others, light years.

I always thought Villa were a lot like Spurs.  Played decent football, but under-achieved.

Now, with a big money backer and a top name manager, the Midlands club need to step up a gear.  Whether the club are up to it is something to be judged in a few years time.  But on this performance, there is much work to do for Martin O'Neill.

Martin Jol has done a real job on Tottenham.  There is still some way to go for us until we are the finished article, but his achievements in the two years he has been in charge should not be under-estimated.

What Villa achieved today was to bring Tottenham down to their level.  Both sides were sloppy, conceded possession cheaply and often, while they managed to make the midfield a war-zone instead of an area where good football was created.

The turning point in the game might have come just after the half hour when Berbatov went on a run into the heart of the penalty area.  With the open space in front of him, it must have looked inviting, but Mellberg and Hughes converged to stop him, but failed to prevent Berba getting a shot on goal that Kiraly held.  Unfortunately, the two claret shirted defenders crashed into each other and the former Newcastle man had to be helped from the pitch, while Mellberg limped on until half-time (having done the same in trying to stop Defoe, when he slid into Barry), when he was replaced by Bouma and the ineffective Petrov by Isaiah Osbourne, with the defence being shuffled around.

While neither Hughes nor Mellberg had been that effective, they were used to playing together and the new men allowed Spurs the ability to cash in on the gaps that were left in the final third.  But Tottenham had failed to trouble the loon panted Villa loan keeper in the first half, with only Hud's long range bomb making him tip the ball over the top.  The Palace goalie managed to stop Berbatov's low shot with his legs, after a delightfully played pass over the defence had picked out the Bulgarian striker just before the break.  Then again, Robbo only had a Gardner drive from 30 yards to deal with and he dropped on it to pull it into his chest.

With both sides turning over possession, perhaps it was not surprising that the match stats showed 50% each, but the match was being played out in the middle of the park.

However, when the Spurs goals came, they were good ones.  Though Villa claimed offside against Berbatov as the ball was played forward after a clearance from the visiting defence, Dimitar slipped the ball into Defoe on the right edge of the box and he took the ball on a stride, before sweeping his shot across Kiraly and into the bottom left corner of the net.  It had taken 57 minutes, but at last there was some light at the end of the tunnel.

With a quarter of an hour left, Robinson launched the ball forward and Berba won the header, flicking it on towards the Villa goal.  Defoe raced onto it on the left hand side of the box and smashed an unstoppable shot past Kiraly without hesitation.  It was a confident piece of finishing, which has come from a successful run in the side and we are now seeing the Defoe we know well.

While Tottenham had gone into a 2-0 lead, it was suddenly a bit nervy as Gareth Barry forged into the box and ran across it, without a decent challenge on him.  While he shrugged off Michael Dawson, looking like it might be a foul, he was left with the opportunity to put the ball past Robinson from six yards out.

This heralded an new tactic from Villa for the last ten minutes.  The ball was launched high into the Tottenham goalmouth at every opportunity and Robbo punched clear under pressure from McCann and Jol brought on Davenport for Defoe, specifically to counter this line of attack.  It failed to pay off, as Tottenham defended in numbers with Berbatov back doing his share of defensive heading duties.

So, another three points and three which might have been lost in the past.  The need for home points is heightened by our poor away form and maybe that will change, but we stand in seventh place and just imagine where we could have been had we picked up even a few more away points.





Other scores this midweek :
Blackburn Rovers 1 Liverpool 0 Tuesday
Bolton Wanderers 2 Newcastle United 1 Tuesday
Chelsea 2 Reading 2 Tuesday
Everton 0 Middlesbrough 0 Tuesday
Manchester United 3 Wigan Athletic 1 Tuesday
Sheffield United 0 Manchester City 1 Tuesday
Watford 1 Arsenal 2 Tuesday
West Ham United 1 Portsmouth 2 Tuesday
Charlton Athletic 2 Fulham 2 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 20 16 2 2 44 11 50 +33
2 Chelsea 20 14 4 2 35 15 46 +20
3 Arsenal 20 10 6 4 37 18 36 +19
4 Bolton Wanderers 20 11 3 6 24 16 36 +8
5 Portsmouth 20 10 5 5 30 18 35 +12
6 Liverpool 20 10 4 6 28 16 34 +12
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 20 9 4 7 25 26 31 -1
8 Everton 20 7 7 6 23 20 28 +3
9 Reading 20 8 3 9 22 26 27 -4
10 Aston Villa 20 5 10 5 22 23 25 -1
11 Newcastle United 20 7 4 9 21 23 25 -2
12 Fulham 20 6 7 7 20 30 25 -10
13 Manchester City 20 6 5 9 16 24 23 -8
14 Wigan Athletic 20 6 4 10 23 29 22 -6
15 Blackburn Rovers 19 6 4 9 19 28 22 -9
16 Middlesbrough 20 5 6 9 17 24 21 -7
17 Sheffield United 20 5 5 10 15 26 20 -11
18 West Ham United 20 5 3 12 12 26 18 -14
19 Charlton Athletic 20 3 4 13 15 35 13 -20
20 Watford 19 1 8 10 12 26 11 -14



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