Preview: Spurs To Prove A Sterner Test For O'Neill

Here's hoping 'Arry and his t'riffic players have another bad day at the office this Sunday afternoon

Martin O’Neill takes his troops on the road for the first time this weekend with London the destination and Tottenham Hotspur providing the tricky challenge for the new boss. The gaffer will be buoyed by his side’s effort last weekend which saw Sunderland show a resiliency which has been sorely missing for a long time and actually come from behind to win a game, something which had become unheard of under Bruce. In fact it was Sunderland’s hard work and dedication to stick to the gameplan O’Neill had employed rather than panicking and resorting to lobbing aimless longballs forward, as was so often the case under the previous regime, which saw Sunderland grind out a vital three points.

Spurs will obviously pose a different threat all together and it will be fascinating to see how Martin send’s his side out to cope and counter the numerous threats that the London side have at their disposal.

So with that said, join me as I try to second guess Messrs O’Neill and Redknapp with some lineups, a classic encounter, some sound betting advise, a little song to get us in the mood and last but not least a
stab at the scoreline in this handy preview.

Sunderland Team News:

With no news of any news injury worries coming to light this week I would imagine we will see a similar starting eleven to that which took to the field on Sunday. The side had a nice balance about it and I can’t ever remember a Sunderland side putting so many balls into the box from the wings since the days of Johnston and Summerbee, this will undoubtedly have pleased the new boss. That said may O’Neill be tempted to change things slightly to counter a couple of Spurs’ more key players?

Keiren Westwood will remain between the posts having continued to impress since making the starting eleven following the explosion of Simon Mignolet’s face. The back four is an area of the field you could see O’Neill having a little tinker with. O’Shea has failed to impress in my opinion since his move from Old Trafford, his distribution in particular proving to be especially poor as of late and with the prospect of coming up against the pace and ability of Gareth Bale could O’Shea swap flanks with Phil Bardsley who is more mobile and at least stands a chance of getting anywhere near the Welshman? Then again Aaron Lennon is no slouch on the other wing either...

Therefore the back four will remain the same with John O’Shea, Titus Bramble, Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley as they were.

Moving into the midfield I can only see one possible change, with Cattermole possibly coming in to "do a job" on Luka Modric. Lets hope if he is given the nod he doesn’t take those words literally. However I would be very surprised to see O'Neill change his midfield which worked so hard last time out. Colback is more than capable to be entrusted with keeping tabs on Modric and or Van Der Vaart and is likely to do the job more effectively and efficiently. Vaughan, Larsson and Richardson all made telling contributions and are will reprise their respective roles, with the wide men possibly asked to protect their fullback a little more to counteract the threat from the wide areas.

What about James McClean I hear you shout. It is true that the Irishman’s debut was certainly eye-catching and a joy to behold, I can certainly see him making another cameo appearance from the bench but imagine O’Neill will be looking for a few more weeks to bleed him in more gradually. The lad looks to have great potential and Martin will be looking to bring him through given time no doubt about it.

That leaves us with the forward line, which was made up of the Benin wizard Stephane Sessegnon and a surprise inclusion for Connor Wickham. The Englishman’s startling recovery since O’Neill’s arrival tells its
own story in how much the new manager must rate the lad and even if Nicklas Bendtner is ready for selection this weekend I imagine his performance at Wolves might still be playing on O’Neill’s mind and the
Dane will have to use any time he is afforded from the bench to put himself back in the bosses good books and out of pizzerias.

Spurs Team News:

‘Arry will be looking for an immediate return to winning ways following his side’s defeat in a controversial game at The Potteries on Sunday evening. Any benefit Sunderland hoped to gain from Spurs’ exertions in the Europa League on Thursday looks to be non-existant as their qualification looked near on impossible with only Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul figuring from the side that lost on Sunday. Redknapp has made no secret of his distaste for the fixture congestion the Europa League throws up, especially given
their good start to their domestic campaign and their failure to progress will be seen as a blessing in disguise.

Tottenham still have Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King (obviously) and Roman Pavyluchenko missing through long term injury and Younes Kaboul will sit Sunday’s game out following his red card
against Stoke.

Predicted Lineups:

SAFC: Westwood, O’Shea, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley, Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, Richardson, Sessegnon, Wickham

THFC: Friedel, Walker, Bassong, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Parker, Modric, Bale, Van Der Vaart, Adebayor.

Classic Encounter:

The August 2008 victory at White Hart Lane for Roy Keane’s SAFC side is a standout clash between the two sides for me. As Spurs dropped Dimitar Berbatov for the game Sunderland were unlucky not to go into the break 1-0 up as this week’s Cult Hero Steed Malbranque struck the woodwork. Everyone’s favourite man of religion Kieran Richardson opened the scoring on fifty-five minutes before Jermaine Jenas pulled the scores level. Then a legend was born. Djibril Cisse entered the fray from the bench and met a Malbranque cross at the far post late in the game to seal the three points for the travelling side.

Get Rich Quick:

Let’s be honest, it’s going to be a tough game for Sunderland. Spurs are a fantastic side, with bags of pace and attacking threat. Questions may be asked of their defence, which will again have to be adjusted to accommodate Kaboul’s suspension so the possibility of bagging a goal isn’t an impossible task. Stoke looked likely to score from a number of corners and crosses last on Sunday, an aspect Sunderland can surely look to replicate and capitalise upon. That said I would snatch your hands off if a point was offered now and I’m sure the majority of sane Sunderland fans would do the same!

  • I think there will be goals on Sunday and 2-2 is currently available for around 18/1.
  • Sunderland to come from behind to win AGAIN ? If Sunday showed us anything O'Neill's Sunderland don't look likely to panic having conceded and SAFC to win from behind is available for around 22/1.

Song For Whoever:

This week's song comes from Pink Floyd, with the track "High Hopes" off of the seminal Division Bell album. Have a watch, have a listen and scroll down for more...

"Encumbered forever by desire and ambition, there's a hunger still unsatisfied, our weary eyes still stray to the horizon, though down this road we've been so many times"

Prediction:

It will take a huge effort to come away from White Hart Lane with the three points but I see no reason why a point would be unachieveable, I'll go for a 2-2 draw.

Ha'way the lads!

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