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Tottenham Club Focus - Cheltenham tie the first step on the potential road to Wembley

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By Alan Robins

Friday 06 January 2012

Tottenham Hotspur entertain Cheltenham Town on Saturday in the third round of the FA Cup. This round, perhaps more than any other, highlights the essence of this prestigious tournament. Non-league or lower league teams drawing a glamour tie against a Premier League club, perhaps facing opposition coming off a hectic Christmas period schedule, some with thoughts of fighting relegation, some focused on the fight at the top.

For these so-called minnows, the opportunity for a giant-killing, to make a little bit of history, is something to relish. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp knows all about this, being in charge of the Bournemouth team who knocked Manchester United out the competition.

Redknapp’s focus at the start of the season was obtaining a top four finish. The goalposts may have changed after Spurs excellent first half of the season, with talk now of a tilt at the title. However, as well as recent injuries to the defensive midfield duo of Scott Parker and Sandro, along with William Gallas, Redknapp has acknowledged that many of his first choice players are tired after the number of recent games and need rest. Consequently, Spurs fans should expect to see a changed first XI at White Hart Lane.

In this, the manager is following the pattern he established during the Europa League earlier in the season, by playing fringe players, young players and potentially those returning from injury. This may give encouragement to a visiting Robins team in good form and who have won 15 and drawn four of their 24 league games in reaching second place in League Two. Manager Mark Yates should certainly have his team up for the cup. Nevertheless, despite probable changes, Spurs will still be able to field a team with a substantial number of current or recent internationals, even if some fans may have expected younger players like Andros Townsend to play and only go out on loan after the tie.

Though the primary focus is on the Premier League, Harry Redknapp [a FA Cup winner with Portsmouth], appreciates the tradition of the FA Cup and especially Spurs’ history in the competition. Accordingly, Spurs fans should expect the manager to look at the cup as an opportunity to bring at least one trophy to the Lane for the first time since the Carling Cup in 2008.

With no disrespect to Cheltenham, this is a kind draw for Spurs, one that should see the Lilywhites through into the fourth round. If so, depending on the draw, the expectation should be for Redknapp to continue to utilize the squad players in the next round at least. The further Spurs can go in the competition the more Redknapp may dream of a final, and the more first choice players may be available to try and obtain that dream. What Spurs fan wouldn’t want to see Ledley King captain the team in the final at Wembley? For that matter, what player like Rafael van der Vaart wouldn’t want to have such an occasion amongst their football memories. Spurs fans will hope that is to come. For now the focus is on Cheltenham.

Possible starting XI: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Rose, Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Pienaar, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe

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

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