West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Preview and Team News
With Arsenal and—following their midweek exploits—Inter Milan looming on the horizon, Tottenham Hotspur's would usually find themselves distracted by these glamor fixtures.
Except they have West Ham United to contend with first, and a trip to Upton Park is rarely easy.
Tottenham lost the last time they visited London's East End in September 2010. A Frederic Piquionne goal gave the Hammers a 1-0 win, a rare bright spot in a poor season that ended in relegation.
West Ham are not yet safe from the drop this time around. But if they are to stay up, it will be down to their so-far-solid home form, picking up six wins and four draws (in addition to two losses) to make Upton Park a relatively happy place.
Hostile and emotional are likely to be the opportune words to describe the place this Monday, at least to begin with.
Tottenham awaken a fierceness in the Hammers' faithful like no other club. But ahead of the game they will also be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of their greatest ever player—Bobby Moore.
The two events could make for a special atmosphere. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is certainly banking on that, and will be hopeful the reflection of the club's great past can inspire his players in the present.
"Hopefully we can win the game and that would be the best thing that could happen to celebrate Bobby Moore," Allardyce told the media on Friday (via his club's official website).
West Ham could do with the boost a derby win would give them. They have won just twice since the turn of the year and sit six points off the relegation zone.
Their last win at Upton Park saw them notch up an impressive 1-0 win over Swansea City, with Andy Carroll scoring his second goal for the club. A defeat away at Aston Villa soured the mood somewhat, and they have had a couple of weeks to think about where they go from here.
James Collins is fit again, while Joey O'Brien should be involved after coming off injured against Villa last time out.
While those two and their fellow defenders will be tasked with nullifying the threat of players like Gareth Bale—who Allardyce described as "the major difference between Tottenham and the teams they've played recently"—the plan is not to park the bus.
"Our home form has been excellent all season and so we're going to hopefully make sure Tottenham worry about us for a long period of time on Monday night, rather than us worry about them too much," said the West Ham boss.
Tottenham head to Upton Park off the back of a late win away in Lyon on Thursday. West Ham offer a different approach to the French outfit, one more direct and physical.
As tough as that can be, Andre Villas-Boas' side will likely relish going toe-to-toe with them after the weariness of attempting to unlock the stubborn rearguard action of Lyon.
With that said, Spurs have work to do in maintaining an unbeaten league record going back to mid-December. The top-four chaser's 3-1 win over West Ham in the last meeting between the sides was the beginning of a turnaround in fortunes for the North London club following a tough fall period.
Much has been said about Bale's sensational form of late, but the Lyon game showed Tottenham cannot solely rely on the Welshman to save the day.
Eyes then will be on Emmanuel Adebayor, who is still struggling to replicate his strong form of late season. With Jermain Defoe unlikely to be fit in time, he has another chance to prove himself. Aaron Lennon and Clint Dempsey will be among those looking to have an impact too, after a quiet few weeks off the back of standout displays in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Tottenham have no new injury concerns to report. Hugo Lloris and Michael Dawson will likely return to the line-up after being rested for Spurs' Europa League games.
Check back for Villas-Boas' pre-match thoughts ahead of the game.