Tottenham end 2012 with a visit to the north-east to meet Sunderland and have a number of incentives, both as a team and as individuals, to achieve a good result at the Stadium of Light.
With the lunch-time kick-off, Tottenham have the incentive to set down a marker for the other teams involved in the very close tussle for fourth place in the Premier League and the prize of Champions League football next season. A win would take Tottenham into third position, one point ahead of Chelsea who play at Everton tomorrow. Three points would require a response from Everton, West Bromwich and Arsenal who are also seeking to get into the top four.
A win would also improve Tottenham’s away record against Sunderland where they have won only one of their last seven games. They have three draws and three defeats. The win came in February, 2011 with an equaliser by Michael Dawson just before the interval and a second half winner from Niko Kranjcar.
Spurs’ Premier League Record at Sunderland
P 11 W 4 D 3 L 4 For 15 Ag 14
This fixture has a history of late equalisers. In March, 2009 Robbie Keane earned Spurs a point with a goal in the 89th minute. Three years earlier it was Sunderland who grabbed the late equaliser after Keane had put Spurs ahead.
Spurs’ best result in the Premier League era was in February, 1997 when a hat-trick by Steffan Iversen helped them to a 4 – 1 victory with Allan Neilsen scoring the other goal.
Incentives for Individual Players
Jermain Defoe scored his 132nd goal for Spurs at Villa Park and needs only one more to draw level with Alan Gilzean on Tottenham’s all-time list of goalscorers.
Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick against Villa which has again alerted defenders of his capabilities. On previous occasions when he has produced an outstanding performance, the next match has been a bit of a let down. After his exploits in the Champions League against inter Milan he struggled against Everton and Bolton Wanderers. Last December, having received plaudits for his two goals at Norwich City, he disappointed on his return to Wales to play at Swansea and was booked for diving. Bale will want to carry on from where he left off at Villa Park on Boxing Day.
Hugo Lloris will be hoping for a fourth consecutive clean sheet and his fifth in six League matches in December. The only blot on his record was the two goals conceded in added time against Everton at Goodison Park. Lloris has managed 7 clean sheets in 14 matches in all competitions for Spurs this season.
Reasons to Take Sunderland Seriously
There is never an easy match in the Premier League and an away game against Sunderland is certainly not one to treat lightly. A few weeks ago there was speculation that manager Martin O’Neill was going to resign because of the team’s poor results. Four matches on and Sunderland have three wins to their credit including the Boxing Day success over Champions, Manchester City. They have not conceded a goal in the three wins and the only defeat was to Manchester United (3 – 1) at Old Trafford.
Martin O’Neill took control at the Stadium of Light just over a year ago and his second match was a single goal defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, Roman Pavlyuchenko getting the goal. Tottenham know what to expect when facing a team sent out by O’Neill. They will be well organised defensively and will be totally committed throughout, just as they did last season.
April, 2012 Match Report
Spurs and Sunderland played out a scoreless draw. The match with a lunchtime kick-off, never generated any level of excitement for the fans watching on television or in the ground. A subdued Stadium of Light crowd have become accustomed to Martin O’Neill’s negative tactics where they defend in depth for ninety minutes, hoping to snatch victory with a last ditch goal. Sunderland retreated into defence as soon as Tottenham had the ball and allowed Spurs to pass it back and forward across the pitch at will. This made for a very sterile match with little impetus and it was increasingly difficult for Spurs to make any forward movement.
Recent results have seen Sunderland defeat Reading at home 3 – 0 and record a single goal success at Southampton. Their last defeat at the Stadium of Light was three weeks ago when Chelsea won 3 – 1. Their home record shows perfect symmetry – 3 wins, draws and defeats with 10 goals for and 10 against in their 9 matches. Their other home win was against Wigan early in the season. They have drawn against Newcastle United, Queen’s Park Rangers and Liverpool while West Bromwich and Aston Villa have taken all three points.
Sunderland will be boosted by Wednesday’s win over City when Adam Johnson scored the only goal against his former club. Sunderland defended heroically to deny City and will attempt to produce a similar performance against Tottenham. Worryingly for Spurs who struggled to break down Stoke City’s defence last weekend and for an hour Villa thwarted them with similar defensive prowess, Sunderland, according to the Opta statistics, have the best record for blocked shots (91) this season.
Steven Fletcher who signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer has scored 8 goals for Sunderland this season. He has a habit of scoring agaist Spurs with three in his last four appearances for Wolves. He gave Wolves an early lead at White Hart Lane last January in a match which ended 1 – 1 at a time when Spurs were being considered as possible title contenders. The previous season he scored in both games against Spurs, giving Wolves a first half advantage before Spurs scored three late goals and then scored a late equaliser in a 3 – 3 draw at Molineux.
Johnson and James McClean will pose a considerable threat to the Tottenham defence and Spurs will need to be prepared to match Sunderland in their commitment and work rate if they are to achieve their objective of taking three points. Even taking into account Sunderland’s recent improved form, this match still remains one that Tottenham will hope to win to end 2012 on a positive note and strengthen their claims for a fourth place finish at the end of the season. Perhaps, if Spurs can achieve a win today more people will start to believe in what Andre Villas-Boas is doing at the club.