Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Now it gets interesting

This is what football's about. Tonight we play the first leg of our Carling Cup semi-final, ahead of a trip to Chelski on Saturday, and an FA Cup replay next week. These big games are what all fans live for and I'm no different. Not only am I excited about the forthcoming matches, but I'm also giddy with excitement as today is the day I will fulfil one of my lifelong ambitions!

Despite attending every home game and a handful of away games each season, I haven't before had enough loyalty points to qualify for a ticket in the away end at ARSEnal. For some reason I can always get a ticket for Stamford Bridge, but it's another story when it comes to Highbury and now the Emirates. Well until now that is - I got back from holiday last week to find a ticket waiting on the doorstep, and my heart rate hasn't returned to normal since! Although I haven't been with the Spurs fans there before, I have been to the last five away games at ARSEnal, courtesy of an gooner I know. But rather than sitting in a seat with one of the best views of the pitch, tonight I'll be in the Spurs corner to be part of what will no doubt be a terrific atmosphere.

Forget what I wrote yesterday about key players not leaving Spurs until the summer, if today's papers are to be believed it looks like things may happen a lot sooner. I'm not sure if this is Ramos' motivation technique ahead of tonight's vital game, or if all this is now coming out because we're part-way through the transfer window. However, it seems that Chimbonda's future is in more doubt than I realised, largely because of his attitude apparently. I also get the impression that Alan Hutton may well be on his way to us from Ibrox after all - not only have Spurs increased the personal terms on offer but Rangers are putting pressure on the player to accept the deal too.

As expected there is also plenty of paper talk about the likes of Defoe, Gardner, Routledge, Ghaly and Rocha all leaving in the near future. A little more surprising though are the question marks surrounding the futures of Darren Bent (the Mirror reckons we'd sell him for £12 million this month if an offer materialises) and Young-Pyo Lee (but with Bale out I can't see this happening until the summer).

All the talk from Levy and Ramos before Christmas seemed to suggest that Spurs wouldn't be particular active in the transfer market this month. But if this week's rumours are to be believed that may have just been a smokescreen.

Either way, I am guessing that Ramos will attempt to use the uncertainty regarding some individuals to get the best out of them. I am guessing that at some point this evening we'll see the likes of Defoe, Chimbonda and Lee - so will we see an improved performance as they each try and prove they have a future at Tottenham?

As for tonight's side, I don't expect any major surprises. I assume it'll be Robbo in goal; with Chimbonda, Dawson, King and Lee in defence; Lennon, Jenas, O'Hara, and Malbranque in midfield; and then Keane and Berbatov up front. With Zokora off on international duty and Huddlestone starting his suspension, I would hope that Ramos opts for O'Hara to partner Jenas in midfield, although I'm sure Kevin-Prince Boateng has other ideas. Defoe may be preferred to Keane upfront as he was for the quarter final at Eastlands, but with this week's news I hope Robbie gets the nod.

The important thing tonight is we keep the tie alive. I'm not sure that we can win the first leg, even if ARSEnal stick with their reserve side, but a draw will be a great result. Even a 2-1 defeat wouldn't kill the tie off, but a 1-0 loss or a result in which we lose by two or more goals would probably be too much to come back from in a fortnight. But so far this season we're yet to concede in this competition, despite overcoming two Premier League sides to get here.

Let's just hope that the players are effective, well-disciplined and concentrate for the entire match. As for the fans, we'll make plenty of noise and will do what we can to help the boys.


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