Megson aims to stave off boo boys
Live on ESPN2 (US) on Saturday from 09.55ET
Free-scoring Tottenham travel to Bolton looking to heap pressure on Trotters boss Gary Megson in ESPN 2's live Saturday offering.
Gary Megson v Harry Redknapp
Gary Megson is braced for another barrage of criticism from his home support, a default setting for the Bolton boss during his 18 months in charge. Back-to-back victories on the road have eased the tension but sandwiched between their wins at Portsmouth and Birmingham was a lamentable showing against Stoke. Despite rescuing a point with a last minute Matt Taylor penalty the players were booed off the field. But Tottenham are a different proposition and plenty more space should be available to both sides. Megson will require a disciplined defensive performance if he is to nullify the considerable threat Spurs possess while, as ever, set pieces would appear to be Bolton's best chance of breaching the Londoners' rearguard.
The delight felt by Tottenham fans at the way they despatched their first four opponents of the season dissipated somewhat after two comprehensive defeats against the league's front runners, Manchester United and Chelsea. Harry Redknapp sets his stall out to attack whoever the opposition are, a tactic that restored his side to their free-scoring best in their last two games against Preston and Burnley. A brittle Tottenham were beaten 3-2 at the Reebok in January, but Redknapp arrives in Lancashire with a revamped squad, high on confidence. How his players withstand the anticipated aerial battery will go a long way to determining the distribution of points. The likes of Bassong, Huddlestone and Crouch will be vital if Spurs are to protect their penalty area.
Gary Cahill v Robbie Keane
Those Spurs supporters who lobbied for Peter Crouch to start the game against Burnley in place of Robbie Keane looked a little foolish come 5pm last Saturday. Keane may only have netted one Premier League goal prior to the Clarets' visit but he then scored four in 70 minutes. The Crouch-lobbyists will get their wish at the Reebok though, with Jermain Defoe struggling to be fit. As such, Keane's role will alter marginally with more emphasis on crossing, given Crouch's proficiency in the air. The Irishman will drop deeper than his striking partner and search out probing passes to a plethora of willing runners. With his confidence in front of goal restored, Keane will prove a dangerous customer.
Gary Cahill has been Bolton's most consistent performer over the past 18 months and a measure of his excellent form comes in the repeated rumblings of interest from the 'big four' clubs. Megson responded this week by saying it would be "suicidal" to sell him in the transfer window and few would argue with that sentiment, but whether Cahill can fulfil his stated England ambitions at Bolton is another matter. He is pivotal to Wanderers' success at both ends of the field. A good organiser of his back line he is also a goal threat, as his winner at Portsmouth testifies. Cahill will have his hands full with the power of Crouch and the finesse of Keane but the 23-year-old has the credentials to keep both quiet.
Matt Taylor v Aaron Lennon
A solid and professional Premier League player, Taylor also has the ability to unearth the spectacular. He can lay claim to a goal of the season contender with almost every top-flight campaign that goes by. After scoring ten goals last term he has notched two this season - from the penalty spot. He has a sweet left foot, capable of producing blistering drives and pinpoint crosses in equal measure. He provides solidity down the left flank, given his days as a full back, and will be expected to assist Jlloyd Samuel in shackling Aaron Lennon. The diminutive winger can be a handful for anyone on his day but by doubling up on him Taylor will hope to limit his influence.
Lennon has been instrumental in Spurs' strong start to the season and can now boast a regular place for England as a result. In seven games he has racked up three assists and two goals. His nimble feet and lightning pace are exactly the sort of attributes that worry Bolton, and his much-improved delivery from wide areas should bring Peter Crouch into play at the Reebok. His timely strikes against West Ham and Birmingham also underline a stronger degree of composure that is filtering into his game. Redknapp will instruct Lennon to run at Samuel, especially in one-on-one situations, and much will depend on the quality of service he provides for Crouch and Keane.
Kevin Davies v Peter Crouch
Davies has only one goal to his name this season; against Liverpool in Bolton's 3-2 home defeat in August. He started all but one of Bolton's games last season and recorded a respectable 12 goals, including a brace in Wanderers' defeat of Spurs. That he and Cahill are such key components in Megson's side are an indication of their preferred style. Davies is a tidy link-up man but it is in the air where he becomes most of a menace and, like Cahill, he is expected to use that dominance in both attack and defence. Davies should have Crouch for company at both ends of the field during set pieces, and the winner of that tussle will probably end up a winner in the match.
The visitors arrive with far less fragile confidence than last time and should not be as susceptible to Bolton's unique form of bullying. Crouch's starting brief will be to try and provide as much panic in Bolton's box as Davies inspires in his own. Crouch's presence gives Redknapp the option to play a different style of football, especially away from home when Spurs will come under more pressure. Crouch's accomplished groundwork and hold-up play will also be necessary to relieve his side from bouts of bombardment. If he does get a rare start Crouch will be keen to cement his place.