League Position: 8th
League Form: LWDLW
Tottenham Hotspur bounced back from their hugely disappointing outing in the Premier League last weekend, when losing their first away game of the season 1-0 to West Ham United, as goals from Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gareth Bale and a Roman Pavlyuchenko braced ensured Tottenham picked up their first ever win in the UEFA Champions League, a momentous occasion made even more memorable by the fact it came at an atmospheric White Hart Lane.
However, now it’s back down to business for the Spurs players and it remains to be seen just how much their midweek exertions has taken out of them, as believe me Harry’s boys worked their socks off on Wednesday and didn’t have it easy against Dutch champions FC Twente for one minute. Furthermore, Van Der Vaart was dismissed in the second half, so that rather bizarre occurrence may have knocked his confidence, although fans will be gutted if it has as the Dutch play-maker has been nothing short of sublime since joining the club on deadline day for a bargain price.
There’s little doubt that of the two teams it is Tottenham boasting all the momentum right now, as while Villa have been doing well under Houllier so far, there’s nothing quite like winning a game in the Champions League. However, I cannot stress enough just how much Wednesday’s game took out of Tottenham and a Villa side with quick, nippy players isn’t the ideal fall-back for Tottenham, who lost on their previous return to league action following Champions League commitments in midweek. Vulnerable would definitely be a would I would best describe Tottenham right now, although after Wednesday’s heroics they may well be running off adrenaline at this moment in time.
Harry Redknapp will have been chuffed to bits with the performance from his players in midweek, with every single player pouring their heart and soul into a game which could ultimately pave the way to bigger and better things for the team further down the line this season. Redknapp, though, will be more concerned about the present and how he will somehow put out a team on Saturday. The delighted manager has major problems at the back ahead of the weekend’s home clash with Aston Villa, with Michael Dawson obviously out for the long-term, Ledley King a major doubt after an exhausting night in Europe four days ago, William Gallas is definitely our with injury while Younes Kaboul is also a big doubt. Seriously worrying time for Tottenham in defence.
League Position: 5th
League Form: WDLWL
Gerard Houllier’s 100% record as Aston Villa will come under serious threat when he takes his Villians to the capital to face a Tottenham side perhaps feeling the strain following their midweek exertions in the UEFA Champions League, something the Frenchman should be all too aware of from his time spent in European competition with Liverpool and Lyon.
Tottenham’s form following midweek action in Europe has been indifferent to say the least so far, and it’s down to Aston Villa to ensure Spurs don’t have it easy on Saturday, that they up the tempo from the outset and make the next 90 minutes as exhausting and testing as physically possible. Managers at the top clubs have bemoaned weekend fixtures following European games in midweek for years now, with Harry Redknapp the latest to come out and seek sympathy from the public at how hard a job it is leading a top club into battle in the most exciting club competition on the planet. I’m sure the Aston Villa will be quick to sympathise with Harry, a group of supporters so desperate to see some Champions League action that they’re willing to swallow their pride and give their full backing to a Frenchman which, judging by his previous trends in the transfer windows, is likely to bin Villa’s search for England’s next star approach and revert back to his homeland.
All the above is still a million miles away, but in the meantime there’s plenty to be cheerful about at Villa Park. Houllier has ensured the club are still going in the Carling Cup, a competition Villa came so close to winning last term only to be thwarted by Man Utd, while the team’s 2-1 victory over locals Wolves at Molineux lifted Villa up into fifth place, one position off those elusive Champions League berth and just five points off leaders Chelsea, who they face later in the month. So it has been the perfect start for the former Liverpool tactician, although the most spectacular feat so far has been his miracle work with Emile Heskey, a former player of his at Anfield who he has know seen score twice in his last two starts, while he’s played a pivotal role in the majority of Villa’s attacks as well. A reborn player you might say.
One area where Villa will need to get right on Saturday is in midfield, where the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young will need to assert themselves and avoid being overrun in the centre of the park, as many sides are when at White Hart Lane. However, a problem area has been in the defence, with Villa having not kept a clean sheet since beating Everton 1-0 at Villa Park at the end of August. In their previous three league games Villa have conceded four goals, all of which were through poor positioning from the defenders and a lack of communication. It is early days in Houllier’s reign but the defence is his first big task and he’ll need a mammoth performance from all four at the back, including Brad Friedel in goal, if Villa are to come away from White Hart Lane with something to shout about.
Match Prediction: Aston Villa – 4.00 PaddyPower
The question we and many punters are asking ourselves is will four days be enough time for Spurs to recover from their vigorous workout in the Champions League on Wednesday. I haven’t seen a side work as hard as Tottenham did for the full 90 minutes in a long time, so it will be interesting to see how they recover, especially as Harry Redknapp is restricted with his options at the back following a host of injuries.
Aston Villa should be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Tottenham right, with Spurs undoubtedly one of the better teams in the league but if you are to face them then what better time then directly after an enthralling Champions League encounter. The pace and agility of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, possibly even Agbonlahor should he recover in time, could cause a makeshift Spurs defence all sorts of problems and we reckon they’re definitely worth a punt.
Over/Under: Over 2.5 Goals – 1.83 Bet365
First Goalscorer: Ashley Young – 10.00 Bet365
Correct Score: 2-1 Aston Villa – 15.00 BetFred
Tottenham Hotspur – 2.05 Boylesports
Draw – 3.45 bWin
Aston Villa – 4.00 PaddyPower