Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Norwich v Tottenham preview

On Boxing Day, it was the season of goodwill as the top teams (with the exception of Man United - who received their own present from referee, Phil Dowd) dropped points in the title charge.

Leaders Man.City drew goalless with West Brom who were disciplined and organised against the superstar line up as Jerome Thomas came closest to winning the game, the right back hitting the post that left Joe Hart beaten.

Liverpool's home form again put into question their Champions League aspirations as they again drew with a bottom half table team as they had to come from behind to gain a point from Blackburn, 1-1.  A Charlie Adam (the walking liability) own goal on the stroke of half-time gave struggling Rovers the lead, but a quick response in the second half from Maxi Rodriguez led anticipation to the floodgates opening, yet even the return of Steven Gerrard could not prevent some fine saves from Mark Bunn, who came in for the injured Paul Robinson.

For Tottenham, the best result was the dropped points by Chelsea at home to Fulham in a West London derby.  Chelsea took the lead through Juan Mata shortly after halftime, yet Fulham who were thumped 5-0 at home by Man.United before Christmas showed great character to equalise deservedly through Clint Dempsey.  Chelsea were denied the win by a fine goalkeeping performance by David Stockdale, an England squad member in for the injured Mark Schwarzer.  Stockdale showed he is good enough for a regular Premier League spot, if not at Fulham then anywhere.

December 27th has two intriguing match ups and both can effect Tottenham, who play away at Norwich City in the evening kick-off.  However, the afternoon kick-off between Arsenal and Wolves will see Arsenal go joint on points with their North London rivals if they win, leapfrogging Chelsea in fourth.

Tottenham are one point ahead of Chelsea, and so can extend that advantage to four points with a victory at Carrow Road.

However, the Canaries should not be under-estimated they are unbeaten in three games and worryingly have Grant Holt being his unplayable self as he was in the Championship last year and now scoring goals - the last game at Carrow Road was there performance of the season as they beat Newcastle 4-2, this has been followed by two solid away draws: 1-1 at Everton, 2-2 at Wolves, both games in which they dominated possession, territory and chances.

Norwich have a constant aerial threat in Holt and Steve Morison up front, they have scored the most headed goals this season - 11.  Yet they have not kept a clean sheet all season in the League, which against the forward prowess of Tottenham is a worrying statistic.

Tottenham have only lost one game in the last 14 league games, Emmanuel Adebayor has scored six in six yet Tottenham are having a mini injury crisis with players falling down hurt and so consistency of selection is suffering.  Expect Ledley King to be rested after he played two games in five days, his knee suffering in its swollen form.  The hope is that Younes Kaboul's hamstring is not that hamstrung to partner William Gallas at the centre of defence.  Other injury scares concern Rafael van der Vaart's own hamstring and Jermain Defoe.

Norwich lose Kyle Naughton to suspension, and Elliott Ward and James Vaughan remain out through injury. 

My feeling is that Tottenham struggled (in the first half at least) at Stoke when the aerial bombardment from Peter Crouch and Jon Walters led to a 2-0 deficit they could not overcome.  Expect Norwich to take heed of this weakness, admittedly King did not play that day and his dominance will be missed against the crafty Holt and Morison. 

It should be an entertaining game full of end to end attacking and certainly some goal mouth action, yet a point for Tottenham should not be sniffed at.  It seems to be the thing to do this Christmas.

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