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Tottenham Focus - Third place there for the taking

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By Alan Robins

Monday 25 February 2013

With Chelsea’s sterile loss in Manchester yesterday, Tottenham know that victory tonight at Upton Park will see the Lilywhites go third. No other motivation should be needed but Spurs should be eager to keep their impressive run going and head the London clubs chasing second.

Mousa Dembelé

Spurs are unbeaten in the league in 10, and have only lost once in 14 [in the FA Cup]. By contrast, West Ham have been struggling to put any consistent run together, taking only 12 points since the beginning of December. Their home form may be more solid, but Spurs have been impressive on the road, taking 23 points so far away from White Hart Lane.

Both teams could line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation; however the match may well be a cagey affair. West Ham are not safe from relegation and need three points, but if they push forward are likely to leave themselves open to the counter attack against which they have defended poorly this season. With the pace and the form of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, West Ham cannot afford to leave space in front of the defense. Perhaps more likely is West Ham to sit deeper, inviting Spurs to try and break them down, to press in the midfield and use the pace of the Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Té to spring forward and cross for Andy Carroll. Carroll’s presence is likely to ensure Michael Dawson starts in the back four, bringing his experience and physical qualities up against the Liverpool loanee. However, this match may well be won or lost in the midfield.

West Ham may harry the Spurs holding midfielders of Mousa Dembelé and Scott Parker. It may be vital for Parker in particular to release the ball far more quickly than he has been doing. If he dawdles as usual, either in his half-dribble/half-pass style or his pirouettes, West Ham will win the ball off of him. There has to be plenty of movement from Spurs midfielders and Adebayor to ensure Parker has options for the quick release. This may also be vital for Spurs to pass around the West Ham midfield, especially their holding duo of Mark Noble and Mohamed Diamé, and get Bale and Lennon running at the West Ham defense.

One selection poser for André Villas-Boas maybe who to play in the No 10 hole behind Adebayor. Clint Dempsey has been used in the position and did well against West Ham in the November reverse fixture. Dempsey will run all day and his physical presence may be needed but many Spurs fans will be looking for a start for the new kid on the block – Lewis Holtby.

Holtby may not have the American’s physical presence but makes up for that with a tenacity and persistence when closing the opposition, as well as the creativity that is arguably lacking from Dempsey’s game. It’s this creativity which should see him start to help open the opposition up.

West Ham’s home record is solid and this may not be an easy game for Spurs but the confidence built from their run may help see them take three points and third place.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on West Ham v Tottenham

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