'Not another 'must win, six pointer' this week is it?' says Mrs JG2 casting a glance at me poring over the OPTA statistics, Old Moore's Almanac, Russell Grant's star chart for August (Spurs first game was in August 1882)and fingering my worry beads. If the August predictions are not propitious I use my birthday (February) instead.
'Why did you score so many last week? You could have saved them for this game'.
She has a point in her peculiarly uninformed way, but I ignore her. I tell her every week that this is the crucial one, the real test, the game that might define our season, which of course it is until we lose it and then I start to explain how this one can be ignored. Just a blip.
Anyway I assume that everybody has arrived safely back down to earth and that I am not addressing an empty void. A sterner task faces us this week away to Villa. Their home record is good although our own away record has improved. We are flying after our thrashing of Wigan who, curiously, are the only team to have beaten Villa at home this year, but that was in the opening game of the season.
Where does this lead us forecast wise? I did a little in-depth research on a Villa website.
All crazy as coots: questioning the manager; criticising team selection; promoting their own favorites at the expense of team regulars. At least we we don't have that to put up with at Spurs where Harry is a God, Robbie Keane is a Saint and everyone supports the team, the squad, the club and the manager without dissent.
Anyway as result of my extensive 3 minute skim I find that although there was some reference to 'cocky cockneys' getting 'stuffed' on the whole there was sufficient nervousness after last week to take a draw if it was offered and I guess many of us would do the same.
However I am optimistic that we can get a narrow win. Even if Villa were to win by less than four goals we will remain above them and the rest of the chasing pack for another week. That's my cover story if we lose. I haven't explained this to Mrs.JG2 yet. I'm saving it in case. Both Hansen and Lawrenson predict a home win by a narrow margin so that gives us a slight edge to start with.
What team will Harry put out? Logically the same as last week, winning team and all that. But he has been defending Robbie Keane this week and decrying the hostility of the fans toward the man that he brought back and appointed captain and may well start him with Defoe as a demonstration of his support .
There is also a good football argument in playing him and Defoe up front as their mobility and speed will worry the Villa defense more than balls pumped up towards Crouch. But it must be admitted that we largely resisted this temptation last week. Villa are not likely to give us as many early Xmas presents as the Wigan back line did.
Kranjcar should keep his place and the only midfield change I can see is perhaps Jenas for Huddlestone as in an away fixture we might need his 'engine' to give us greater cover in defense and to get forward more quickly to support the attack when needed. Unless Harry has finally decided that Huddlestone is first choice in midfield with Palacios. At the back King will start if fit with Woodgate, and Bassong may well get the nod over Dawson if not.
A win will cement the gap that has opened up between us and Villa and Man.City. Everton who I wrote off some weeks ago continue to slide, losing at Hull in midweek, and look more likely to be fighting relegation than contesting the Europa places. That means that realistically there are only 7 teams contesting the top 7 places, with perhaps Sunderland and Fulham as outside bets.
It should be a good game tactically and technically as both teams try to play the right way but we have the edge in attack with Lennon and Defoe and a clean sheet might well be the key to winning this one. I am not expecting the openness that produced the 4-4 thriller of last year, nor am I expecting Harry to give Pavlyuchenko a start or even a cameo role. He couldn't even get on when we were 6-1 up with 20mins to go so what are the chances if it's tight.
For the record I predicted that we would win 3-1 last week and I got 2 out of three. Just a little underestimation of our score prevented me from being spot on. Long may it last.
Prediction: Villa 1:Spurs 2.( So that's 1-6 then in Wigan terms)