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Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa


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Sod the boxes, 26th December is all about football, and Villa will pitch up for an early kick-off at White Hart Lane.

FA Barclays Premiership

White Hart Lane

Tuesday 26th December 2006

Kick Off 1pm

The second half of Villa's season begins with the penultimate game of 2006, a tricky visit to North London to face a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur side. Spurs have passed Villa in the table in recent weeks, and despite taking something of a hiding against Newcastle they currently sit three places ahead of us in 7th. A win, however, would see Villa leapfrog Martin Jol's side tomorrow.

Spurs are sweating over the fitness of Jermain Defoe. Having been second choice to the now-injured Robbie Keane, Defoe's form has been superb and he would be a big miss. He picked up a knee injury in the warm up at Newcastle on Saturday. Jermaine Jenas is also missing, but it is not yet known whether he has been playing during that time (chortle chortle). Gavin McCann will undergo a fitness test for Villa after suffering a problem with his hamstring. BBC Sport believes that Chris Sutton will drop out of the side to be replaced by Juan Pablo Angel or Milan Baros.

Since an early December thumping at the Emirates, Spurs' form has been good up until their trip to the North East last weekend. Their strikers have shone in wins over Middlesbrough, Charlton, Dinamo Bucharest and Manchester City. They also scraped through a League Cup tie against Southend United. Saturday's defeat at Newcastle has knocked their form for six, but the sharper readers among you will have noted their recent opponents with interest. Granted, Tottenham's European performances have been excellent, but Middlesbrough, Charlton and Manchester City are not the toughest opposition in the league. It's just possible that the form table lies.

Villa's form table certainly doesn't lie. I think recent results have been a reality check, and our position in the Premiership table is getting back to somewhere like where it belongs for the time being. The gulf between Villa and the likes of Manchester United was demonstrated beyond doubt on Saturday and with Mr Lerner and General Krulak watching on, maybe it's just as well.

Martin O'Neill is an excellent manager and he has done superbly well, but the bottom line is it is not easy to over-achieve for any length of time with the previous manager's side, regardless of who the manager is. O'Leary's side was O'Leary's side. Martin O'Neill is better equipped and better supported, but he needs to utilise that and get faces in during the next two or three transfer windows to establish Villa in the top eight.

So, on to the predictions. Mark Lawrenson has gone for his customary 2-0 home win, safe in the knowledge that Villa are a tiring side and Spurs have players who can exploit that. However, football is a funny old game, and sometimes the obvious comfortable home win just doesn't materialise. And because it's Christmas I think I'm going to plump for an extremely nervy and very narrow away win. 1-0 to the Villa, with Gabor Kiraly to be Man of the Match. Famous last words...

Come on you Villa boys!


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