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Tabloids can’t resist linking Tottenham’s Bale to Barcelona. Again.

This was inevitable after the performance Gareth Bale turned in against Norwich on Tuesday night. It’s as if, in tabloid world, the Sporting Directors of Europe’s elite clubs tune in to games and suddenly decide – ‘oh, he’s a bit good isn’t he’.

It doesn’t work like that.

Still, according to the Mirror:

Barcelona have made Gareth Bale their No.1 target next summer – but set a £25m price limit.

Coach Pep Guardiola thrashed out a hitlist with director Andoni Zubizarreta for new left-sided players, which also includes Valencia’s Spain international Jordi Alba and AC Milan’s Thiago Silva.

But Bale, 22, is the top priority and it is Guardiola who insisted the Spurs flier is the player he most wants.

Barcelona are also preparing a player plus cash deal with £20m and a range of younger players on offer to Spurs.

No quotes from anyone, not even the old ‘reports in the Spanish media’ chestnut? And not to be pedantic, but Thiago Silva is actually a centre-back – so he probably doesn’t appear on this fictitious list of ‘left-sided’ players.

It’s not the best bit of journalism is it? If you’re going to create stories for the sake of inducing internet traffic, at least make the figures believable – given how stubborn Daniel Levy proved to be over Luka Modric, I don’t think he would entertain anything less than £50m for Bale.

Unless that ‘range of young players’ includes Andres Iniesta, Leo Messi and Gerard Pique, of course.

Tottenham – 2009 & 2010 Highlights

For the other side of North London, who were apparently feeling left out after last night’s Robin Van Persie post…

Highlights from 2009 and 2010, Premier League to Champions League. Music by Mumford & Sons and White Lies.

Tottenham to beat Swansea? 7/10 with Paddy Power.

Tottenham – Guessing the transfer window

“If we’re going to make a signing, let’s make one big signing. That would send out a message. But it’s difficult finding that player who would make a difference.”

Guessing the mysterious ways in which Harry Redknapp is likely to move during his favourite time of the year is probably a thankless task – but let’s do it anyway. Presumably Redknapp won’t be able to resist doing a couple of mid-to-low-level deals, but lets stick to speculating on who the marquee signing could be.

Fernando Llorente

Big, skillful forward with an abundance of footballing and finishing ability.

Pros: Redknapp and Daniel Levy were reported to have been sniffing around Llorente in the Summer, and anybody who’s watched the 6ft5 26-year-old will know why. Yes, his goal record is slightly underwhelming, but he possesses the physique and the nous to hold the ball-up and link the play. Both commodities that fit very snugly into Redknapp’s attacking philosophy.

Cons: Gouging Llorente out of the Basque Country would take an absolute boat-load of cash – which would amount to quite a risk before ensuring a Champions League revenue next season. Also, given the way Spurs have approached the last couple of transfer windows, there’s nothing to suggest that they do actually possess that kind of disposable income.

Kaka

Off-colour Brazilian star, currently being marginalised at Real Madrid.

Pros: An old Redknapp quality – the ability to get the most out of individual players. Is there a player in the world whose stock has fallen further than Kaka’s? Wishful thinking it may be, but Tottenham could actually be the antidote to whatever ailment is so obviously stalling the Brazilian’s career.
He is also available, reportedly, for a cut-priced £22m.

Cons: It’s ‘Kaka’ and it’s ‘Spurs’. His wages alone would probably make Daniel Levy choke a little bit on his bagel, and the club would probably be unwilling to break the wage structure for anybody other than Luka Modric. There’s also the caveat that the Brazilian may very well be in terminal decline rather than simply ‘out-of-form’ – and nobody needs a £22m deadweight loss.

Leandro Damiao

Internacional starlet long-admired by Europe’s elite

Pros: Very few actually, because his exposure to a more European-style of play is very limited – and he still doesn’t have the international experience to be compared to anybody outside of the Copa Libertadores and the Brazilian league. At a stretch though, he is a close friend of Sandro Raniere…

Cons: He’s not going anywhere, and is recently on-record declaring his loyalty to Internacional. He’ll end up in Europe soon, but it won’t be in January.

Guiseppe Rossi

Pint-sized Italian-American

Pros: Well, the obvious – he scores goals. Villarreal are also currently rubbish, which may make him favour a move to greener pastures.

Cons: Much like Llorente, he would cost a fortune. Plus of course, he doesn’t really have a natural place in the Spurs team – he’s not big enough to fill the role played by Emmanuel Adebayor, and Harry Redknapp has already ruled-out selling Jermain Defoe. On that basis, it’s hard to see Spurs mounting a serious bid.

Gary Cahill

Over-hyped and over-priced ‘next-generation John Terry’

Pros: Cheaper than he would have been because of his contractual situation, but isn’t that the same logic that sees people buy things in the sales that they don’t need? One plus though, he’s young and rarely-injured. Novelty.

Cons: A whole raft of them; Chelsea seem to have this deal all but signed, he’s not better than what Tottenham already have, and the obvious one – he’s not actually anywhere near as good as everybody think he is.

Andriy Yarmolenko

The next great Ukranian export

Pros: Talented, really, really, talented. The Ukranian press have already anointed him as Andriy Shevchenko’s successor, but they’re slightly different players. 22, pacey, skillful, comfortable all across the front line and a goal-threat from anywhere within thirty-yards. And…with the exception of Cahill, probably the cheapest player on this list.

Cons: There’s nothing to indicate that Kiev would be willing to sell their prize-asset just yet. While a move to a more high-profile club is probably inevitable, it won’t happen without an enormous cat-fight between Europe’s elite.

Tottenham to beat Norwich? 8/11 with Paddy Power – claim your welcome bonus here.

Tottenham vs Chelsea: Preview

Thursday 8pm, White Hart Lane

Tottenham 13/8 Draw 12/5 Chelsea 13/8

Had this game taken place six weeks ago, I don’t think you’d be getting such a high price on Spurs for the win. However, a Chelsea resurgence and a mini injury-crisis for Harry Redknapp has narrowed the gap between the sides.

For the home side; Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson are all out, while Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe, and Emmanuel Adebayor are all doubtful. Younes Kaboul returns from suspension, while Ledley King should be fit to lead his side.

Chelsea could be without David Luiz and Ramires, although the latter has the better chance of making this fixture – John Terry will overcome an achilles problem though.

A lot will depend on which Tottenham side actually takes the field tonight, and more specifically whether Gareth Bale does in fact start. Spurs are a different side with and without him, and if he’s included then that will be a big step towards the points. Expect Rafael Van der Vaart to move to the right wing, with Harry Redknapp likely to partner Defoe with Adebayor up top.

In light of his recent impact, Didier Drogba will surely be preferred to Fernando Torres, with Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge providing the width. The battle down the flanks will be interesting, as Tottenham possess two of the quickest and most attacking full-backs in the league in Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker – that means a defensive as well as attacking responsibility for Sturridge and Mata. Oriel Romeu, Frank Lampard, and Ramires/Mikel/Meireles will make-up the away midfield.

Andre Villas-Boas will hope that Chelsea’s extra numbers in midfield will nullify the obvious threat of their opponents – Luka Modric cannot be allowed to wander between the lines as per usual at White Hart Lane.

This is always an entertaining fixture, and usually one with goals (over 3.5 goals at 15/8). Expect Tottenham to start fast and to impose themselves on their local rivals, but Chelsea to have enough belief and resilience to emerge from North London with a point.

2-2.

Interesting Fact: Matches involving Tottenham average 3.29 goals per game this season.

Best Bet: Tottenham to win either half at 4/5

Tottenham vs Sunderland: Preview

Sunday 3pm, White Hart Lane

Tottenham 2/5 Draw 9/2 Sunderland 7/1

Martin O’Neill warned the Sunderland fans that, despite the euphoria of last weekend’s last second win over Blackburn, there would be plenty more dark days to come. This might be one of them.

Younes Kaboul is suspended for Tottenham, so Harry Redknapp will hope that Ledley King is available to step-in beside William Gallas. Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, and Roman Pavlyuchenko all remain sidelined.

Sunderland welcome back Nicklas Bedntner and Lee Cattermole, irrespective of their mid-week antics, while Craig Gardner should also be fit enough to feature.

Two sides who are coming into this fixture off the back of very different emotions. Sunderland will need to appreciate that, despite the three points, their performance against Blackburn for the large part was fairly average – while Tottenham, still smarting from Chris Foy’s shocker last week, will want to return to winning at the first time of asking.

As ever, the home midfield is the key to this game. If the quartet of Modric, Parker, Bale and Lennon fire properly, there’s no reason to think that Sunderland side can live with their hosts – Martin O’Neill or not. Whoever plays in the middle, be it Cattermole or Vaughan, needs to show enough discipline to subdue Luka Modric, and stop him picking holes in the visiting back four. Is Vaughan good enough to do that, or is Cattermole able to do that without picking-up a couple of yellow cards?

Sunderland should take heart from Younes Kaboul’s suspension though, as the Frenchman has been tremendous for Tottenham this season, and has been a big part of their success so far. Without him, Spurs lose a physical presence in both boxes – and Martin O’Neill will surely have pinpointed offensive set-pieces as key to his side taking anything from White Hart Lane.

Interesting Fact: Games involving Tottenham have resulted in three goals or more 85.7% of the time this season.

Best bet: Tottenham to be leading at half-time and full-time at Evens.

Tottenham, 3-0.

Tottenham fans should hope those Carlos Tevez rumours aren’t true

This will probably amount to little more than paper talk, but it’s worth a comment in any case.

Tottenham are a club with a delicate balance at the moment, and they need to think twice about bringing any potentially destabilising elements into their dressing-room.

Carlos Tevez is the very definition of that.

Despite the loss at the weekend, Spurs are still an excellent bet to finish in the Top 4 this season, and return to the Champions League. The squad is cohesive and trim, and Harry Redknapp has clearly focused his side on pulling together for the common good. One advantage that the Tottenham squad has over their rivals, is their comparative lack of ego – again, something to credit Redknapp with. They’re a team – Christ, even Emmanuel Adebayor is tracking back in defence.

That’s their biggest asset.

Carlos Tevez is a fine player, but a volatile one. With him in your side, you’re always one mood swing away from adverse publicity and a culture of negativity. Given the amount of money it would take to prize the Argentine away from Manchester City, and the amount on top that would be required to actually pay the player, Daniel Levy shouldn’t even entertain this as an idea.

Imagine, if you will, that Tevez did arrive at White Hart Lane. All of a sudden, you’ve got the conundrum of leaving out either him or Adebayor. Pick your poison. The key to getting the best of the Togolese – and with 8 goals and 6 assists in 14 games that’s what Redknapp has being doing – is to make him feel wanted. If he plays, he’s happy – if he doesn’t, he sulks. Read the same for Carlos Tevez, except factor more money, required adulation, more ego, and a more disruptive agent into the mix. A nightmare.

If ever there was a case for not ‘overloading the ship’, this is it – Redknapp will always flutter his eyelashes at players ‘he likes’, but hopefully he recognises the benefit of the clear definition and collective purpose that already exists in his side.

Of course it’s all just rumours, but it’s always fun to rage against a hypothetical.

Speculative rumours linking Kaka to Tottenham

You have to admire the Daily Express sometimes, they just don’t care what you think of them – not even slightly bothered.

Rumour of the day? Apparently Tottenham are going to pursue Real Madrid’s Kaka in the January transfer window – the basis for the story being that Harry Redknapp wants ‘another creative player to add to his stable of ball players’.

What, because Spurs don’t have enough of those kind of players – Rafael Van der Vaart, Steven Pienaar, Niko Kranjcar, Luka Modric? Really, can anyone see Tottenham forking out the extravagant outlay that would be needed to cover the Brazilian’s wages?

Obviously, like every transfer story involving the North London club, it has to involve Gareth Bale in some way – and The Express do a fine job of crow-baring the Welshman into the article:

‘Real want to recoup about £30million for the former AC Milan player but their long-standing interest in Tottenham’s Gareth Bale could lead them to do a deal if there is some encouragement that the Welshman may be available.’

Yes, it ‘could lead them to do a deal’ but on the other hand it almost definitely will have no relevance to a proposed and entirely fictitious loan agreement.

Good work though.

Stoke vs Tottenham: Thoughts from The Britannia Stadium

– Before we get to the more negative points, what a great game of football. As absorbing and engrossing a contest as you could’ve asked for.

– The tragedy of Chris Foy’s performance is that it now makes the actual football a secondary talking-point. A contest should never be more memorable for how it was officiated, in any sport.

– The replays may show a hint of handball about Peter Crouch’s assist for the opening goal, but I don’t count that amongst Foy’s errors today – or at least it’s the most forgivable of all of them. Sometimes giving the attacking side the benefit of the doubt is for the good of the game.

– Is there a more under-appreciated player in the league than Jon Walters? Stoke fans are probably fully-aware of his contribution, but for those not used to seeing his input over ninety minutes this should have provided an awakening. Absolutely tireless, which was especially laudable given how often he found himself isolated from his midfield runners. That Peter Crouch walked off with the MOTM champagne instead of Walters was a travesty.

– Without trying to sound conspiratorial, Chris Foy seemed awfully eager to dismiss Younes Kaboul. The irony of his red card is that of course his first yellow was for protesting Foy’s abysmal failure to award a second penalty to Tottenham after Kaboul was dragged to the floor – unfortunate, but not unfair, dissent is dissent. The second yellow was curious, because his challenge on Jon Walters was clumsy, and this was a classic case of a referee not needing to send a player off. Especially so given that Jonathan Woodgate remained on the pitch in spite of his tackle on Scott Parker in the first-half.

– When a referee makes a mistake, or thinks that he has, the worst thing he can do is let that effect the decisions he makes for the rest of the game. I think Chris Foy regretted giving Luka Modric a penalty, and tried to balance it out by predetermining that Tottenham would get nothing more from him for the duration of the game. You can’t referee like that, you can’t over-compensate.

– Ryan Shotton’s emergence as a long-throw exponent is interesting, not least because Stoke actually look like a better team without Rory Delap. A shallower trajectory and a couple more metres from Shotton, and Delap would be obsolete.

– Stoke’s midfield was excellent today, and as good as it’s been this season. They tired, understandably, as Tottenham came back and back at them, but for an hour they rendered the most creatively potent midfield in the league ineffective. Quite an accolade for a team that’s just supposed to be about direct football.

– Those ‘Wimbledon’ comparisons are lazy – Stoke are more than that. A team with Wimbledon’s approach couldn’t exist in the game today, and Stoke do because there’s more about them than just ‘knocking the ball long’. It’s aggravating, I’m sick of hearing that from pundits and commentators.

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Stoke vs Tottenham: Preview

Sunday 4pm, The Britannia Stadium

Stoke 7/2 Draw 5/2 Tottenham 11/10

The Britannia Stadium isn’t quite the intimdating away day that is used to be, but it’s still a test for the league’s form team. Tottenham have won 10 of their last 11 games, and look stronger every week.

Tony Pulis should have a fully-fit squad to choose from – Andy Wilksinson, Jermaine Pennant, and Rory Delap are all expected to return, while Thomas Sorensen should shake off the effects of a concussion.

Tottenham will be without long-term absentees Niko Kranjcar, Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone, while Jermain Defoe, Sandro, and Gareth Bale are all doubts for the trip to the Potteries.

There’s been something missing with Stoke this year. Yes, they’ve always had the aerial threat that their famed for, but in seasons gone by that was accompanied by an under-valued ability to pass the ball. The twin demands of European and domestic football are well-documented, but it’s not just that – teams seem to be able to roll them over far too easily now. If Bolton was the nadir of their season, the losses to Newcastle and QPR should also serve as red flags to a side that need to rediscover their second dimension.

Tottenham haven’t lost away from White Hart Lane since their trip to Old Trafford, and at times their football has been sensational. The question mark over Bale’s involvement is undeniably a cloud, but even without him that squad has enough flexibility about it to take three points tomorrow. As important as the acquisition of Scott Parker has been, it’s these types of games that he’s most important – the kind of situation in which Tottenham are historically weak. They clearly have the flair, but Parker provides the backbone.

Look at the obvious points – this is a lesser Stoke team than years gone by, and a superior Spurs’ side. The away side has won 2-1 in this fixture for the last two consecutive years – what is there to suggest it will be closer this time around?

Spurs 3-1. Maybe a punt on Peter Crouch to score at any time, given football’s fondness for throwing up things like that.

Sevilla still pursuing Tottenham’s Dos Santos

How is Giovani Dos Santos still a Tottenham player? I think most people accept that he has the talent, but it should be clear by now that he’s never going to be a first team regular at White Hart Lane.

The red flag was there over this player when Barcelona let him leave Camp Nou so cheaply.

Anyway, it seems that Sevilla will be going back in for the Mexican in January – Sporting Director Ramon Rodgriguez:

“It’s a difficult subject, but not impossible.

The agents have offered us 50 per cent of the rights but the price imposed by Tottenham must be ignored.

That is the doubt.

We believe Giovani wants to leave Tottenham and that could be decisive.

He was our first choice in the summer but Tottenham wanted too much money for a deal.”

This is one of those situations where a move would be the best outcome for both club and player, Dos Santos is still only 22, and maybe it just has to be accepted that he’s not right – mentally or physically – for the game in England.