Sunday the 15th April 2012, an FA Cup semi-final and a London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea; the winner returning on the 5th May for a final against one of the Merseyside rivals. A semi-final winner offers both teams their best chance of a trophy this season. Chelsea face Barcelona in the Champions League whilst Spurs over the last two months have slipped away from a title challenge to now fighting to retain fourth place in the league ahead of Newcastle and Chelsea.
Tottenham’s results over this period have been poor, but the performances mixed. There have been two genuinely poor performances – against their fierce North London rivals and in their last match at home to Norwich. Spurs were arguably unlucky to come away from matches against Manchester United, Everton, Stoke and Sunderland with only two points. However, Spurs best performances came in the wins against Swansea, in the FA Cup against Bolton and in the recent draw against Chelsea.
The draw at Stamford Bridge saw Spurs much the better team, dominating the home team as the match went on and should have taken all three points. In the match Spurs lined up in 4-5-1 formation, however despite the relative success, manager Harry Redknapp may well change the formation due to several factors.
Without doubt, Spurs poor run has coincided with Aaron Lennon’s injury [and some tactical errors by Redknapp to compensate]. Spurs have excelled this season in a 4-4-1-1 formation when both Lennon and Gareth Bale have been available; the width with pace offered by the two has, at its best, torn opposing defences apart, with both hugging the touchline and being supported from full back by Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekoto.
The good news for Spurs is that Chelsea will be missing Branislav Ivanovic at right back after he received a retrospective three match ban for violent conduct. The Blues may also be missing left back Ashley Cole. Only just returning from injury, a semi-fit Cole may be kept in reserve for the Barcelona match. If so the full back deputies will come from the inconsistent David Luiz, the perhaps out of form Jose Bosingwa or the little used Paulo Ferreira or Ryan Bertrand. Whichever of these two maybe selected, arguably there is no better time for Spurs to utilize their pace and width.
In the 4-4-1-1, Scott Parker may have to sit a little deeper to protect the defence against the Chelsea runs from midfield, especially as Spurs may be fielding William Gallas and Ryan Nelsen at centre back, who have not been regular starters this season. Otherwise, with Luka Modric alongside Parker, conducting Spurs play and Rafael van der Vaart in the hole behind Emmanuel Adebayor, Spurs should be back to their best.
Spurs should be able to put the Norwich match behind them, as they are likely to change formation and some of the starting eleven. If they can draw confidence from the previous matches against Chelsea then Spurs should be able to go on and claim a final place.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Norwich