premier league

Soccernet Preview: Burnley vs Tottenham

May 7, 2010
By Robin Hackett
(Archive)

• Live on ESPN UK on Sunday at 16.00 BST

Against all expectations at the start of the season, Tottenham have seen off the challenge of Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa and booked their place in the Champions League. As they head to Burnley for their final game, they could even leapfrog arch-rivals Arsenal and take third place.

Peter Crouch's goal against Manchester City secured fourth place on Wednesday
GettyImagesPeter Crouch's goal against Manchester City secured fourth place on Wednesday

Burnley still have European aspirations of their own to protect going into the final week. Should Fulham beat Atletico Madrid, Burnley - as things stand - would qualify for the Europa League on the basis of the Fair Play table.

The conclusion should not be that they will give up without a fight, though, as there is incentive for victory, too. With the chance to increase their Premier League prize money by overtaking Hull and Brian Laws eager to improve his standing among the supporters, the Clarets could also look to go all out for the win.

Burnley player in focus: Steven Fletcher. Named the supporters' club's player of the season this week, Burnley's £3 million signing from Hibernian has scored eight goals in the Premier League this season despite often struggling for service.

Tottenham player in focus: Jermain Defoe. Defoe has now gone eight games without scoring from open play and needs to rediscover his scoring touch soon if his place in the England squad is not to come under threat. Burnley have conceded three goals or more in six games so far in 2010 and, if Defoe is selected, this could represent his ideal opportunity.

Key battle: Tyrone Mears vs Gareth Bale. Mears is a right-back who likes to venture forward but he will need to keep his positional discipline against the pace of Bale. Mears' own pace could be a valuable asset in the battle and, with Aaron Lennon still not looking fully fit, it would be a significant boost if he could help quell the visitors' threat down the left flank. Bale, for his part, has been in the form of his life and a chance to attack a shaky Burnley defence will surely fill him with pleasure.

Tactics: Burnley are likely to adopt a fairly direct approach, but they cannot afford to hand possession back to Tottenham too easily as the visitors are extremely dangerous in possession. Brian Laws seems unlikely to retain the 4-3-3 formation used in the 2-1 defeat to Birmingham as it would offer the initiative to Spurs in the midfield battle. It remains to be seen whether Harry Redknapp will give his fringe players a chance to shine with fourth place secure but, given the possibility of a third-place finish, there is the distinct possibility he will rely on the majority of the players who beat Manchester City. That would mean using Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale to provide pace on the flanks with Luka Modric supplying the creativity from the centre.

Quotes: Burnley chairman Barry Kilby on his team's financial incentive: "If we go above Hull we get an extra £800,000 for next year."

Tottenham striker Peter Crouch on the importance of the match: "If Arsenal lose, we've got an opportunity, and there's no way we won't be up for it on the last day just because we've qualified for the Champions League. We'll be going all out to finish strongly at Burnley and get a result."

Robbie Keane, Clarke Carlisle
PA PhotosRobbie Keane scored four goals in a 5-0 win over Burnley in September

In the news: Spurs' success has seen them involved in increased transfer speculation. Reports have suggested Manchester United could look to prise Gareth Bale and Luka Modric away, but Harry Redknapp insists he has no intention of allowing any of his key players to leave. On the subject of signings, Redknapp confirmed Spurs have "looked at a lot of players" but does not anticipate major summer spending.

Burnley's Europa League hopes are in the spotlight, but the exit of Joey Gudjonsson (who was suspended for two weeks following his criticism of Laws prior to the Clarets' 4-1 win at Hull City) has also been in the press..

Burnley team news: Clarke Carlisle is battling to return from an ankle injury, while Chris McCann is out for the season.

Tottenham team news: Ledley King looks certain to be rested after playing three games in 12 games. Niko Kranjcar and Jonathan Woodgate are out for the season.

Probable Burnley team (4-4-2): Jensen, Mears, Cort, Caldwell, Fox, Paterson, Alexander, Cork, Elliott, Nugent, Fletcher.

Probable Tottenham team (4-4-2): Gomes, Kaboul, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale, Defoe, Gudjohnsen.

Soccernet prediction: Tottenham beat Burnley 5-0 at White Hart Lane in September and, as they still have an outside chance of finishing third and avoiding a tricky route through the Champions League qualification stages, they will be determined to take all three points. Burnley will try to finish a difficult season on a high, but have shown little indication they are capable of an upset. Expect a comfortable win for Spurs.