Results for Cup Final

The gameplan for Sunday

11:58 am
We are all familiar with Harry Redknapp’s prioritisation policy, but our manager knows the importance of Sunday’s Carling Cup final clash with Manchester United. He had a taste of Wembley glory last season with Portsmouth and more silverware, gained through upsetting the best team in Europe will be another notable feather in his managerial cap.

Victory would also be a boost to a team that has faced the ignominy of a relegation battle all season, securing European qualification at a time when our UEFA Cup fixtures are viewed as little more than a hindrance. It is hoped they would not be next season.

However, retention of the trophy and qualification for the first season of the Europa League somehow seems as far away as it did when we embarked on the campaign in the dark days of early season.

Manchester United have an aura of invincibility that makes their target of winning the five tournaments they entered this season eminently achievable. 10 straight Premier League wins and one goal conceded in their last 15 league matches shows the size of Spurs’ task. How will we defeat the Red Devils and repeat last year’s success?

That victory over Chelsea is the first place to look. Players intimidated by our opponents only need look at those who constructed that famous win – as the cliché goes, anything is possible in football and we must not lack self-belief.

Tactically Harry might well use our recent FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford as a blueprint. Although a 2-1 reverse was the final outcome, the manager was pleased with the way our five-man midfield stifled United’s threat, with the doubling up on Cristiano Ronaldo particularly successful.

Spurs played that match under-strength and with a clear counter-attacking mentality, and whilst we will not start the final in the same defensive frame of mind, the absence of Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Fraizer Campbell might force Harry to again play Luka Modric behind Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Darren Bent appears to be on borrowed time at the club and can expect a place on the bench – having no striking cover on the sidelines might be dangerous.

Wilson Palacios is also unavailable, so Didier Zokora will perform ball-winning duties alongside Jermaine Jenas, who will need to support the front man with his bursts from midfield that have been lacking this season. Tom Huddlestone had a good impact as a substitute last year and we might need him again to come on to pick passes as we search for goals.

The back four will pick itself (fitness permitting) with the containment of Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov a priority. Our former striker was allowed too much space in the FA Cup tie and Ledley King will be keen to prevent him dropping deep and enjoying time on the ball.

Heurelho Gomes will be back between the sticks, which should not alarm Spurs fans as much as they might fear – Carlo Cudicini was as unsure on set pieces against Hull City as the Brazilian has been at any point this season. United are as dangerous from corners and free kicks as anyone and it does not need saying that they are threatening enough without being gifted soft goals.

The final should be a tight, low-scoring affair and we should hope Spurs’ frustrating tactics can produce a 1-0 win, the scoreline that United have benefited from so much recently. They have conceded more than once just three times in 26 league matches, meaning a clean sheet is crucial to our hopes of victory.


Written by Philip Oliver, a Tottenham Hotspur supporter and professional sports writer who blogs about Carling Cup gambling and football in general.
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