Spurs are finally riding a wave of terrific form, but the injury bug has hit hard. That is easily the biggest story going into Saturday's match at St. Andrews against Birmingham City. We already knew about Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson, and Ledley King. It is likely that none of them will be available, with Jenas and Dawson having a small chance of being fit. Rafael van der Vaart and Younes Kaboul are the new men on the injury table at Spurs, and both are out as well. Besides these six, the injured backups and long term injuries include Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, David Bentley, Jamie O'Hara, and Jonathan Woodgate. In total, 11 Spurs players are either out or doubtful for tomorrow's game. Four of those players (Huddlestone, Dawson, King, van der Vaart) are almost inarguably first choice when fit, with Jermaine Jenas and Younes Kaboul being key substitutes or possible tactical starts when all players are fit. As a result, Spurs are a thin side at the moment.
Still, maybe form will prevail? The team are riding a wave of momentum after three straight big time wins. The dramatic North London Derby comeback, the Champions League shellacking of Werder Bremen, and the great comeback against Liverpool have to put the team in good spirits, despite their injury worries. The healthy members of the squad will also welcome a full week off, as I'm sure the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, etc. were getting quite tired. Everyone should be refreshed for Saturday's match, or at least more refreshed than their opponents who had to play a Carling Cup derby mid-week.
Birmingham should be the less fit of the two clubs as a result, but that Derby win could seems like it could be a big part of a serious turnaround in their season. In their last three matches, Birmingham beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, drew Fulham at Craven Cottage, and defeated Aston Villa at home. A win in this match could potentially see Birmingham jump into the top half, and unlike Spurs, they are fairly healthy.
Unfortunately for Spurs, their injuries really stifle their ability to take advantage of Birmingham's tactical deficiencies. They play a very rigid 4-4-2 and two of their best midfielders, Alex Hleb and Craig Gardner, are injured. This means that Spurs would likely be able to keep the ball all day with a competent five man midfield. However, all of Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, and Rafael van der Vaart are injured. This means that if we wanted to try to outnumber Birmingham in midfield, we'd have to go with Sandro or Niko Kranjcar. Ouch. I guess it's going to be 4-4-2 vs. 4-4-2, hoping that our superior talent wins out.
The biggest selection question that Harry Redknapp will have to answer is whether Roman Pavlyuchenko or Jermain Defoe will start. I think that most of us 'round these parts would prefer Defoe, but he hasn't looked to be 100% just yet. Obviously, Harry sees both players every day in training and is likely to make his decision based on how the players trained this week. I do not attend training on a daily basis, so I have to speculate. I don't think that Defoe is 90 minutes fit at full quickness, and as a result, I expect to see Pavlyuchenko partner Peter Crouch with Defoe's entrance into the game depending on how well things go early on.
Other than those players, it seems like the lineup selects itself, doesn't it? Watch me be proven wrong.
Projected Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-2): Gomes / Assou-Ekotto, Bassong, Gallas, Hutton / Bale, Modric, Palacios, Lennon / Pavlyuchenko, Crouch
Projected Birmingham City lineup (4-4-2): Foster / Ridgewell, Dann, Johnson, Carr / Larsson, Boyer, Ferguson, Fahey / Zigic, Jerome
Prediction: Birmingham City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur. I can't see us keeping a clean sheet, nor can I see us losing. However, I feel like this game has massive potential for an extremely boring version of a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.