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Jon Riley 11th Feb 2011 - 13:21

The Mackems or Milan: Where do Harry's priorities lie?

Sunderland v Tottenham | 17:30 - live on ESPN

Harry Redknapp leads his Tottenham team into what could turn out to be a season defining week, both domestically and in the club's maiden Champions League campaign.

Sunderland are first up for Spurs in Saturday's late afternoon kick-off at the Stadium of Light followed by a second trip this season to the San Siro stadium, this time to face AC Milan in the last 16 of UEFA's elite club competition.

A trip to Wearside is possibly the last thing Harry would have wanted before heading off to northern Italy. Spurs have endured a poor recent record against Sunderland in the North East, losing three out of their last five visits and winning only once in the last nine years.

Steve Bruce's Sunderland will be keen to impose themselves physically on Spurs early on, with the hope that a few of the visiting players have one eye on the trip to Milan. The Black Cats have lost only three of their last twenty three Premier League matches at the Stadium of Light and one of those was their most recent against reigning Premier League champions Chelsea.

Sunderland (9/5) have coped surprisingly well since the departure of former Spurs forward Darren Bent, scoring six goals in their last three games. What has let them down recently though is their defence. This season the Black Cats have kept eleven clean sheets and have looked assured and solid, however in the last two games they have conceded seven goals. In particular, the defending away at Stoke City was nothing short of shambolic. Bruce will have briefed his team in depth on the dangers of Stoke's set pieces yet they were undone on all three occasions.

Tottenham (6/4) were less than convincing in their previous game, needing an injury time screamer from Niko Kranjcar to defeat a pluck Bolton side at White Hart Lane. Worryingly for Spurs, attacking star Rafael Van der Vaart failed to return to the pitch after half-time and is a serious injury doubt for this encounter. His place could be taken by the returning duo of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.

The first meeting of the teams this season ended in a draw (23/10) in north London in November with Van der Vaart and Asamoah Gyan (5/1 First Scorer, 5/4 Anytime) scoring the goals in a 1-1 draw. For a correct score repeat of that match you can get odds of 6/1.

Sunderland's goal threat was increased in January with the arrival of Stephane Sessegnon (15/2 First Scorer, 9/4 Anytime) and Sulley Muntari (10/1 First Scorer, 7/2 Anytime) to offset the departure of Bent.

Gyan is still the main target man and showed all his strength and clinical finishing ability in wrestling Robert Huth off the ball at the Britannia last week to fire Sunderland into a 2-1 lead.

We're still uncertain of which strikers will start for Tottenham, with Harry liable to rotate his forward men. Any two out of Jermain Defoe (5/1 First Scorer, 5/4 Anytime), Peter Crouch (6/1 First Scorer, 7/4 Anytime) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (13/2 First Scorer, 15/8 Anytime) could lead the line for Spurs.

Crouch has usually been given the nod to play alongside Van der Vaart in Redknapp's favoured formation and the beanpole striker notched in Spurs last away game, his fourth minute header settling the game at Blackburn.

If the stats are to be taken into consideration the bet to go for could be for Spurs to come from behind and win or draw at 15/2. Sunderland have dropped the most points from winning positions this season (17) while Spurs have recouped the exact same amount of points from losing positions, also the highest in the league.

With two penalties against Bolton for Tottenham and four in the last three meetings between Sunderland and Tottenham, a penalty to be awarded could well be an interesting bet. A penalty to be awarded and scored is priced at 10/3 compared to the 12/1 on offer for a penalty to be awarded and missed.

If Kieron Richardson can maintain his recent goal scoring feats, he could be a very decent proposition at 9/1 to grab the opening goal.



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