Tottenham: Easier April on paper for Harry Redknapp’s men

Tottenham will be glad to see the back of March and their tricky fixture list against some of the best sides in the Premier League. A stuttering period has been costly, with Spurs relinquishing their grip on third place and falling to fourth, behind Arsenal. However, with a more agreeable five fixtures in April, Harry Redknapp’s men will look to close the three-point gap on their bitter rivals and take back the automatic Champions League qualification place.

Swansea home

Tottenham take on the progressive Welsh side at home this Sunday, and will look to get back to winning ways in the league after only two points from their last five games in the division.

Brendan Rodgers has instilled an exciting passing style in the Liberty Stadium outfit, who have surpassed all expectations this season in their first season in the top flight. The Swans are generally better at home than on the road, but have nothing to lose and will go out to compete.

In Gylfi Sigurdssson the visitors have a dangerous attacking midfielder who can score goals also; Spurs must watch the on-loan Iceland international carefully. However, with the bulk of his players fit and available for selection, Harry Redknapp will urge his men to show their quality and get three points.

Sunderland away

Not an easy fixture by any means, Sunderland are always a tricky opponent in front of the passionate Stadium of Light crowd. The Wearside club looked like relegation contenders back in December, but new manager Martin O’Neill has given The Black Cats confidence and powered them up into the top half.

The Bantams have taken their foot off the pedal slightly in recent weeks, and Spurs will be buoyed on by Everton’s comprehensive 2-0 win over Sunderland away from home in the FA Cup quarter-finals. However, O’Neill will motivate his side to be at their best as they look to finish as high as possible in the league.

In James McClean the hosts have a tricky and fearless winger, who has lit the Premier League up in his debut season, whilst Stephane Sessegnon is difficult to mark as he plays in the hole between teams’ midfield and defence. Redknapp should adopt a three-man midfield and hope the likes of Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart can inspire the London side to victory.

Norwich home

Another home clash against a newly-promoted side, this on paper is a game Tottenham must win. Despite the relative inexperience of the Canaries’ players in the top flight, the Carrow Road club have, like Swansea, got their teeth into their campaign back in the big time and not looked out of place.

Paul Lambert’s men have already guaranteed their safety, and Tottenham will hope to catch Norwich cold after a long, hard season. At White Hart Lane the visitors will most likely set up a defensive line-up and look to counter on the break, so Spurs must be patient in attempts to breaks their opponents down.

Targetman Grant Holt will provide a threat in attack, and the bulky striker must be given little space by the Spurs centre half pairing. Enforcing some strong and fast like Younes Kaboul to counter Holt’s physicality may be a good move.

QPR away

London rivals QPR are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Premier League, and are right in the mix with four other teams in the battle to avoid demotion to the Championship. Mark Hughes has a raft of January signings at his disposal, and the Loftus Road crowd will be desperate to pick up points.

Despite their position in the bottom three of the division, Rangers have shown some steel at home at times, beating Chelsea and overturning a two-goal deficit to get three points over Liverpool in a recent 3-2 win. The fact that the fixture is a London derby will also motivate the hosts.

The Hoops’ frontline of Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora has the ability to hurt any side, and the former France international in particular has the pedigree and experience to score goals. However, Spurs will look to get a grip of the game in midfield, and if they do so should be on top.

Blackburn home

A home game against Blackburn completes the Premier League schedule for April, and the White Hart Lane faithful will hope that their side have strung together wins and all but sealed their place in the top four by this point.

Rovers are likely to be panicking by the time this fixture comes around, and any team fighting to avoid relegation are dangerous to play towards the end of the season.  Steve Kean has given a relatively young group confidence, and they have the ability to spring a surprise; they have beaten both Manchester United and Arsenal this term.

The visitors’ hope will rest on veteran striker Yakubu and young prospect Junior Hoilett. The Nigerian has re-found his goal-scoring form this term, whilst Hoilett has an assurance on the ball that will most likely see him move to a bigger club in the summer.

All in all Tottenham will want to put their bad run of form behind them, and will believe that they have the ability to win all five of these games. Sunderland away will be the most difficult fixture, but it is imperative that at least all games at White Hart Lane result in three points for the hosts.

Published – Bleacher Report

Steve Kean take a bow: Your Blackburn U-turn is almost complete

With Blackburn’s 2-0 win over Sunderland on Tuesday night, the Lancashire club have made a massive step towards Premier League safety. Rovers sit six points clear of the relegation zone, a feat that should not be underestimated after their dreadful start to the campaign, and are now in pole position to maintain their top flight status. Steve Kean was a sure thing to get sacked earlier this term, but the Scot has kept his job, and maybe the club in the division.

The abuse and criticism that Kean received over months whilst Blackburn were in the bottom three was unrelenting and merciless; a lesser manager may well have walked away amid the constant slating. Even the Ewood Park fans turned on Kean, and the bookmakers were defied when Kean did not lose his job.

However, the Blackburn side that stepped out against Sunderland in midweek exuded confidence and were good value for their 2-0 win over The Black Cats. Junior Hoilett continues to impress, whilst Yakubu has been a revelation at Ewood Park this term – the pair scored a goal each in the second half to confirm a well-deserved win.

However scoring has not been Blackburn’s issue this term; only the top five clubs in the division have hit the net more than the Lancashire side. Plugging a defence that has conceded 60 goals during the campaign, the second most in the Premier League, has been Kean’s chalenge and would decide the team’s fate.

The win over Sunderland was Rovers second clean sheet in a row and it appears that Kean has managed to get the best out of his youthful rearguard. Errors that blighted the first-half of the season, although not completely eradicated, seem less frequent and the defence seems to be more confident; an obvious side-effect of Kean’s tutelage.

Blackburn’s mini-turnaround at the back is even more impressive when you consider that a number of leading and experienced defenders have left the club in recent times. With Christopher Samba, Ryan Nelsen and Phil Jones amongst the defenders to exit Ewood Park in recent times, the side are obviously in a transition period, which takes time to fine-tune.

Kean was slated in the press, by pundits and a section of the club’s own fans; now that things are looking better he must receive the praise that he deserves. With Wolves looking doomed, QPR having lost five of their last seven games and Wigan and Bolton still inconsistent, Rovers are on the verge of survival; well done Steve Kean.

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