Tottenham cannot afford to drop points in the race for Champions League qualification, as they host Cardiff on Sunday for Matchday 28 of the Premier League at White Hart Lane (8:30 AM Pacific, 16:30 GMT). After losing at Norwich last time out, Spurs need to win if they want to keep up with the top four, as the season finale is approaching fast. They boosted their morale after the disappointing showing at Norwich by beating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-1 last Thursday by qualifying for the Round of 16 of the Europa League. But, Cardiff are desperate for points too, after going three games without a win and remaining in the danger zone. Earlier in the season, Tottenham beat Cardiff away 1-0 thanks to an injury time goal by Paulinho.
Adebayor to the rescue
Spurs managed to march on in Europe thanks mainly to Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored twice against the Ukrainian side and helped to keep their campaign alive. But, it seems that he will probably have to do it in the league too, with striking partner Roberto Soldado continuing his goal drought. The Lilywhites’ over-reliance on the Togolese striker is a doubled-edged knife, as proved against Norwich a few days earlier, when Adebayor did not manage to score and Tottenham lost, falling six points behind Liverpool. The Merseyside club won at Southampton on Saturday and Tim Sherwood’s team must return to league goals in order to keep their top-four bid alive. They have lost only one of their last five home league matches, the 5-1 defeat by Manchester City.
The home manager could be tempted to field two strikers again, but it’s more probable that he will stick to a 4-1-4-1 formation. Hugo Lloris will start in goal, Kyle Walker at right back, Danny Rose or Zeki Fryers on the left, and Michael Dawson will partner Jan Vertonghen in the centre of defence, with Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches injured.
In midfield, Sandro returned from injury against Dnipro and could keep Ettien Capoue out of the side, for the role of defensive midfielder. Aaron Lennon should return in the right side replacing Andros Townsend, while Nabil Bentaleb and Paulinho could form the central midfield partnership. Moussa Dembele is the most probable to start on the left, but Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli are waiting for the opportunity. Gylfi Sigurdsson is doubtful. In attack Adebayor is certain to start, Soldado will probably be on the bench and Erik Lamela is out.
Time running out for Cardiff
Cardiff suffered a shock 4-0 home defeat against Hull City last time out and remain in 19th position, with just 11 matches to save their season. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not try to hide frοm the fact that his team was poor, while the situation became even more complicated when controversial owner Vincent Tan gave an interview to the BBC, claiming that fans who oppose him after sacking the previous manager Malky Mackay should apologize. But, while internal strife continues to exist at the club, Solskjaer has more pressing issues to address, like the lack of goals by his team -only Crystal Palace have scored fewer than Cardiff’s 19 – and the defensive frailties exposed against the Tigers. The Norwegian manager must improve the team’s away record too, as they have won only one and drawn 3 out of 13 matches on the road.
Solskjaer is expected to make some changes in his starting lineup compared to the last game, playing a 4-4-1-1 formation. David Marshall continues in goal, Kévin Théophile-Catherine could play on the right with Fabio Da Silva moving on the left ahead of Andrew Taylor. Juan Cala and Steven Caulker will form the central defensive partnership once again.
In midfield, Craig Noone should retain his place on the right, Wilfried Zaha starts on the left ahead of Peter Whittingham, and the returning duo of Jordon Mutch and Gary Medel will play in central midfield. In attack, Craig Bellamy returns and could play just behind Kenwyne Jones, with Fraizer Campbell vying to start too.
Prediction: A match of critical importance for both sides. Totthenam have improved at home lately and will hope that Adebayor will be fresh after playing in Europe on Thursday. Cardiff must take something from White Hart Lane but it will be very difficult against a much better team. Score: 2-0 for Spurs.
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