Even with an injury-hit side, Tottenham will still be a very stiff test tomorrow. Harry Redknapp has strengthened their defence making them a leaner, meaner outfit. How Michael Dawson hasn’t got a shout in an England squad of late is beyond me, especially with John Terry hardly on top form and Matthew Upson looking shakier by the day.
Such defensive solidity means you can’t count on chances coming your way at the other end meaning the stakes are that much higher when Spurs are coming forward. They still carry that potent threat going forward and their pretty passing will probably be based around two crucial figures on Saturday. Niko Krancjar has a habit of playing well against Fulham – he scored his first goal in the Premier League for Portsmouth a few years back – but the talisman we’ll have to stop is little Luka Modric:
Despite having a clear gameplan at White Hart Lane last week, Everton had little answer to the gifted Croatian. He’s a free spirit in much the same way that another talented playmaker – Paul Gascoigne – was a decade ago. Modric drifted infield against Everton but the danger may be more pronounced in our Cup tie should Redknapp decide to shift either Croatian infield as he faces up to injuries striking his favoured central midfielders. What Fulham can’t afford is to allow Modric and company to dictate play forcing Danny Murphy backwards.
Fortunately, neither of the forwards who did the damage the last time Tottenham came to town in the FA Cup will be available to Spurs tomorrow. Dimitar Berbatov has long since moved on to Manchester United and Robbie Keane is on loan at Celtic. That doesn’t mind Hughes and Hangeland can relax though. Jermain Defoe has scored 22 goals this season, including an impressive five in five in the FA Cup. Peter Crouch grabbed a couple of goals from the bench yesterday to press his World Cup claims and, if that doesn’t work, Redknapp’s got an in-form Roman Pavlyuchenko to turn to.
Fulham will need to limit the space the front men have to operate in. They’ve done it before, this season in fact. Hodgson’s organised defence effectively nullified the threat from the Tottenham attack in the league game at Craven Cottage. Keane was anonymous and, although Crouch was a bit more successful with his passing, look at just how deep he was forced to play:
Defoe’s added some sharper runs to his game since his first shot at international football and is an all-round better player now, but he isn’t in the sort of form that saw him terrorise Hull back at the start of the season. It’s a big ask to keep all these players quiet, but Hodgson’s pulled off many a tactical masterstroke already this year. Keep the faith.