Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Thursday January 26 2012
WATFORD KICK off the F.A Cup 4th round weekend by playing host to Tottenham Hotspur this Friday night at the Vic`, live on ESPN.
Harry Redknapp will have been in court all week facing a tax evasion trial and Spurs will still be seething from the injustice of a last-second defeat by Manchester City on Sunday. As wounded animals go, this is one you don`t want to get in the way of.
The North Londoners have every right to be seething as well. Having fallen two goals down in quick succession, strikers from Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale hauled Redknapp`s side back into the clash. And, had Defoe been six inches taller, he would have been celebrating and injury-time winner as he stretched to connect with Bale`s delicious far-post delivery.
In the end, Mario Balotelli stole he headlines as he avoided punishment for stamping on Scott Parker before nabbing the 94th minute spot-kick.
All the same though, Redknapp`s side head to Vicarage Road on good form and well-placed to claim a Champions League spot for the second time in their history.
Whilst the signings of Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor have been key for Redknapp, the sheer determination of manager and chairman Daniel Levy, to keep Luka Modric at the Lane has been crucial.
he diminutive Croatian was adamant that he wanted to move to West London and join Chelsea over the summer but a move was blocked by Levy with Chelsea believed to be offering circa £35m for the playmaker.
Modric, 26, has been back to his best since accepting the decision of his paymasters through, pulling the strings for Spurs in midfield. The former Dynamo Zagreb man is probably now grateful that he was kept at White Hart Lane with Chelsea floundering five points behind Spurs.
Alongside Modric with similar play-making duties is Rafael Van Der Vaart. The explosive Dutchman has been hugely impressive since moving from Real Madrid two summers ago.
With two educated feet, excellent passing, vision and penalty-taking are just a few facets of the Dutch international`s game. Watching Van Der Vaart link-up with the likes of Modric and Parker at times, it`s clear the trio are on a different level, one step ahead of everyone else.
Finally we come to Parker, signing of the season in waiting. The former West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle and Charlton midfielder has re-invented himself as a holding midfielder in recent years after flailing in Tyneside.
Now 30, Parker is enjoying something of an 'Indian Summer` of his career, his stock never. 'Player of the Season` for three straight years at Upton Park, Parker is the first man on the team sheet for club and country these days. It`s something of a shame that his stock has only reached this height recently.
Watford will be without Martin Taylor and Stephen McGinn once more but Jonathan Hogg will be fit to start once more. Sean Dyche could well experiment with the 4-1-4-1 used at Birmingham at the weekend to accommodate Hogg as well as John Eustace and Prince Buaben.
Spurs can re-introduce Emmanuel Adebayor who was not allowed to play against parent club Manchester City at the weekend. Jermain Defoe will rival Adebayor for the lone striking berth. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale (thigh), Scott Parker (hamstring) and Younes Kaboul (groin) are doubtful after missing part of training this week.
Michael Dawson and Sebastian Bassong could replace Kaboul and Ledley King if the club captain is not fit or rested. Vedran Corluka (Achilles), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and William Gallas (calf) are all definitely out.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Doyley; Hogg; Deeney, Eustace (c), Buaben, Yeates; Sordell.
Tottenham Hotspur: Friedel; Walker, Bassong, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Pienaar, Kranjcar; Van Der Vaart; Pavlyuchenko.
Date:Thursday January 26 2012
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