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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Aston Villa: Preview

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Well, I'm a littte scared of this one.

Aston Villa are far from playing their best football right now, but our injury problems at the back make me think that the likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, and Mark Albrighton are going to have a field day.

Then again, we seem to fall asleep for poor teams and get up for big games, don't we? I feel like this has to be considered a big game for both Aston Villa and Spurs. For years, these two teams have been major rivals in the fight for European places. Historically, they're similarly sized clubs. Both teams are going to come into this game knowing that dropping three points to the other puts a serious dent in their hopes for reaching Europe yet again next season.

Yesterday, I had a conversation about this game with Kirsten of 7500 to Holte. The part of that conversation where she grills me on Spurs can be found here and the other part of the conversation where I'm asking the questions can be found here. There were a few basic conclusions I came to after having this conversation. One, Ashley Young in the hole is scurry. Two, Houllier is a considerably more imaginative manager than O'Neill and we could be in for some surprises. Three, and this is the biggest positive for Spurs, we should be the better team in the center of midfield.

I'm confident that Tom Huddlestone and whoever is paired with him will be better than Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker in this game. The recent play of these two players also tells me that Harry would be wise to put both Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon into the starting lineup.

Petrov and Reo-Coker aren't the best passers in the world and Aston Villa aren't exactly spectacular at keeping the ball. If we can get the ball to Lennon and Bale quickly on the counter-attack, we might be able to do some serious damage. Tom Huddlestone's distribution from deep allows us to counter down the wings pretty easily. So, I think that keeping Lennon on the bench once again this week would be a big mistake by Harry.

Thanks to his red card against Twente, Rafael van der Vaart should be fit to play 90 minutes this week, which is good news. Of course, the bad news is that he will be suspended for our Champions League match against Inter Milan.

It seems like the two teams are going to be 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 variations up against each other, so that has the potential to cancel out anything tactically fascinating. However, like it was mentioned above, Houllier might throw us a curveball or two. Worry not, Villa fans. Harry Redknapp hasn't the slightest idea what a curveball is.

So, readers, I'd really like your input on what is going to happen here. What kind of team does Harry throw out? How is the game going to turn out? Hopefully we can have a good discussion in the comments section.

Hopeful Spurs Lineup (4-4-1-1): Gomes / Assou-Ekotto, Bassong, Corluka, Hutton / Bale, Huddlestone, Sandro, Lennon / van der Vaart / Crouch

I don't think that Sandro will actually start and I could see Crouch rested for Pav, based both on the amount that Crouch has played lately and Pav's two goals against Twente.

Projected Villa Lineup (4-4-1-1): Friedel / Warnock, Collins, Cuellar, L. Young / Downing, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Albrighton / A. Young / Heskey

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Aston Villa