Tottenham Hotspur Preview - Away, December 18
THE MARTIN O'NEILL reign gets it's first serious test this Sunday as Sunderland head to the capital to face Tottenham Hotspur.
The North London outfit saw their 12-match unbeaten run end in a cloud of controversy at Stoke City last Sunday. However that defeat was quickly put to one side with a 4-0 triumph in the Europa League against Shamrock Rovers.
That victory was not enough to see Spurs progress in Europe and whilst some argue the continental experience would be beneficial for young players, others argue it will be a key factor in returning to the Champions League.
Harry Redknapp's side had suffered an inauspicious start to the campaign, however a 5-1 humbling at home to Manchester City proved something of an turning point for Spurs who promptly went on that impressive unbeaten streak.
Recent press clamouring suggests that Spurs could be in the title shake-up. Talk of that ilk may be a little premature, but there is no doubting the side's credentials as a top-draw Premier League outfit.
Absolutely central to that turnaround were the signings of Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor, and if the pair can keep up the early form they have shown during their Tottenham careers to date one will surely be a banker for 'signing of the season'.
At just £5m Parker has proved an absolute snip having moved from East London and relegated West Ham. The 31 year-old has started all 12 of the games he has been at the club for and has quickly become a key man at the lane. Having stalled earlier in his career with Chelsea, the England international is a man who has re-invented himself having started his career as a more advanced midfielder. Now in a deep-lying playmaker role, exercising brilliant defensive capabilities, Parker is key for country as well as club. It's just a shame no England manager took a chance on him a few seasons ago.
Arriving on-loan from Manchester City, Adebayor has quickly proven he still has the knack for scoring goals. The Togo cap has also been an ever-present since signing, bagging eight league goals in the process. Despite his affiliation with the red and white half of North London the powerful forward has quickly made himself a favourite for Redknapp's side. The sticking point for the former Real Madrid and Monaco man will come when his loan contract expires at the end of the season, will he take a huge pay cut to guarantee regular football or not, that is the question.
Another crucial summer signing was veteran goalkeeper, Brad Friedel. The American stopper move to White Hart Lane on a bosman after a handful of successful years in the Midlands with Aston Villa. Now the wrong side of 40, Friedel shows no signs of letting up and has marginalized club No.1, Heruelho Gomes. With 508 league starts to his name there are few more experienced than the Ohio-born custodian.
Redknapp has continued problems at centre-half on Sunday with Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson both out. Ledley King could be in line to feature.
For Sunderland, Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner are both back leaving Martin O'Neill with a selection headache in the centre of midfield. Will Cattermole return in place of goal-hero David Vaughan. Bendtner would only return if O'Neill was to pick two conventional forwards up front instead of playing Stephane Sessegnon off of Connor Wickham.
Tottenham Hotspur: Fridel; Walker, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Parker, Modric, Bale; Van Der Vaart; Adebayor.
Sunderland: Westwood; O'Shea (c), Brown, Turner, Bardsley; Larsson, Vaughan, Colback, Richarson; Sessegnon; Wickham.