It may be West Ham’s cup final, but for us all that is important is to get another three points on the board.
Manchester City and Liverpool gained ground with their wins on Boxing Day. City are bound to pick up a bit, having recruited a new manager and despite how poor Liverpool have looked this season, they certainly have it in them to go on a long unbeaten run.
So we need to keep racking up the wins if we’re to maintain distance and with Villa having been beaten by The Scum, it’s even possible that we could go into the new year nicely positioned within the top four.
First we must beat West Ham. We’ve got a great recent record against them, but they tend to be tough matches. Despite having not lost to West Ham since 1999, the 4-0 home win in 2008 was the only encounter that we’ve won really comfortably. It is their cup final after all.
It looks as if Bassong will miss out having received a kick to the head against Fulham, which will provide a nice opportunity for Ledley King to return to the centre of defence alongside Dawson. He may be blighted by injuries, but Ledley is still a class above when he is able to appear.
Defoe will return against his old club and one would assume it will be in place of Keane, though you can never be sure with Harry. In midfield, Huddlestone may replace Jenas and Modric is also pushing for a start. Is a blood and guts London derby the right place to experiment with a Modric/Palacios combination in central midfield?
Competition for places is always a nice problem to have to deal with, but it’s not really one that West Ham will need to worry about, with Mark Noble, Keiron Dyer, Carlton Cole and Danny Gabbidon all ruled out.
The 0-0 draw with Fulham was our third clean sheet in a row and another would be the first time that we’ve managed four in a season since 2000/01. West Ham’s attack is not looking particularly potent without Carlton Cole and we’ve a chance of extending our run.
Local grudges aside, the clear fact is that this Tottenham side are a class above West Ham and should win comfortably. This was of course also the case against Stoke and Wolves, so you’d be daft to put your mortgage on it, but I’d expect us to edge a narrow win. Maybe 1-0, or 2-1.