Earlier in the season Aston Villa were invited guests to Spurs’ 125th Anniversary celebrations and they did their best to spoil the party. Spurs defence had obviously been enjoying the party before the game as they presented Villa with the goals to take a 4 – 1 second half lead. Only a magnificent comeback with Younis Kaboul scoring an added time equaliser lifted the gloom that had descended on White Hart Lane.
That game was one of the many as everyone awaited the outcome of the Jol leaving saga. He has now gone and Spurs are showing improvement under Juande Ramos, although the schoolboy defending returned on Saturday against Reading.
Aston Villa are currently 7th in the Premier League, nine points ahead of Spurs. Their home record is identical to that of Spurs, five wins, one draw and losing on four occasions which should give Spurs some hope.
Martin O’Neill, as always, has turned Villa into a hard-working team which will compete throughout the ninety minutes and never know when they’re beaten, as illustrated in their 4 – 4 draw at Chelsea on Boxing Day. Their strike force of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Joey Carew will give Spurs’ suspect defence problems but while Villa have an experienced defence they too can concede goals.
Carson, in goal, will be trying to show that he deserved his chance for England and Curtis Davies has replaced the suspended Zat Knight, while Melberg and Laursen (no goals for him this time) bring the experience. In midfield, Reo-Coker has settled well after his summer signing from West Ham, playing alongside Gareth Barry. On the left Young is proving very dangerous and Chimbonda will have to be alert defensively throughout the game.
Spurs’ recent record at Villa Park shows one win in the last six games. They won 1-0 in January, 2003 and the last two games have ended 1 – 1.
Last 6 games at Villa Park:
December, 2001: Draw 1 – 1 Ferdinand
January, 2003: Won 1 – 0 Sheringham
May, 2004: Lost 0 – 1
November, 2004: Lost 0 – 1
September, 2005: Draw 1 – 1 Defoe
October, 2006: Draw 1 – 1 Opp. o.g.
There has been a missed penalty in both of the last two games. In 2005 Defoe missed for Spurs and last year Davenport was sent off, Angel missed the penalty and then immediately scored the own goal for Spurs. It was Barry who retrieved the situation for Villa with a long range shot cutting in from the left on his weaker right foot.
At the moment, every match is a ‘must-win’ game for Spurs if they are to make up for the early season failings. It would be a good game for Spurs to win, maintaining their momentum and progress while denting Villa’s hopes.
Many will be calling for Defoe to start ahead of Keane but I would expect to see Keane taking his usual place alongside Berbatov. In defence, King’s presence, if fit, would bring some much needed composure to those around him and with the commitment and effort that Ramos demands, a win is a possibility, if Berbatov can show the application and goal-scoring ability displayed on Saturday.
A Spurs win would bring a very happy New Year to all Spurs’ fans around the world.
HAPPY NEW YEAR