As our own Jonathon Hobday wrote in his piece yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur and the FA Cup go hand in hand. Or at least they used to.
For a team that has a rich history in cup competitions and has enjoyed a great deal of recent success in the Carling Cup, we’re long overdue an appearance in the FA Cup semi-finals at least, let alone the final itself.
This season looks like the best chance we’ve had since winning it in 1991. Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool are already out, while Manchester City are on a collision course with Chelsea, if they can first dispose of Stoke.
Our route to a possible semi-final is by no means easy, but things could be a lot harder. Having earned the right to bring Bolton back to White Hart Lane, we have a great chance to progress to the quarter finals, where we will be away at Fulham. That would be tough, but at least it’s not Chelsea.
I’m not trying to get ahead of myself with all this speculative dreaming, but instead I’m attempting to point out that this year represents a great chance for us in the FA Cup and it’s one that we should take with both hands.
I expect that there will be something akin to a riot if Pavlyuhenko doesn’t start alongside Defoe. Hopefully this pairing will give us slightly more variety in our attacking options, than we have seen of late when Defoe has been paired with Crouch.
With Lennon unfortunately injured and Jenas fortunately injured, I’d expect Bentley, Huddlestone and Palacios to all start. The only question is whether Modric returns to the side for Kranjcar. He was muscled out of the first game against Bolton, but after the contribution he made from the bench against Wigan, I think he deserves to be recalled to the team.
With Ledley injured along with BAE and Kaboul and Walker, the defence picks itself. Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Bale. I’m not saying that you’re not all good, but the fact remains that there is no one else available.
Bolton’s starting eleven is less clear cut. They have a vital home match against Wolves on Saturday, which hopefully might mean that they rotate their side and will be even less predisposed to the idea of extra time than us.
Cup games played under the floodlights at White Hart Lane always have a unique atmosphere and I’m expecting the crowd to fire up the team. Tonight we need to start at the sort of tempo that in the first game, we held within our locker until the second half.
In the second half of that match, we proved that we were the better side, but not until Bolton had already had enough chances to have put the game out of sight. We can’t afford to be this slack tonight. Put them under the cosh straight away and bag an early goal.
Because let’s face it boys, playing for penalties doesn’t seem like an intelligent strategy. Come on you Spurs!