Tottenham Hotspur vs. Swansea City
Not only do Swansea play great football, but they are also in great form at the moment.
Last weeks 4-3 home defeat against Norwich was the Welsh sides first defeat in nine games (5 wins and 3 draws) and in those games they played Liverpool twice (H & A), Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A), WBA (H) and Arsenal (A), so it has hardly like the fixtures were overly kind to them. The fact that Swansea sit only 3 points behind Spurs and have a better goal difference, is a real indication of their increasing quality and the fact that Michael Laudrup has almost seamlessly stepped in for Brendan Rodgers, is a true testament to the great way the club is run over the last few years.
Laudrup has not only kept things together, but they are actually five points better off that at the same stage last season and in Michu, they have added a real attacking threat and cutting edge to a team that was last season heralded for its superb football, but occasionally lacked a finisher to make good their chances and possession. Perhaps last weekend at home to Norwich was a bad day at the office, because I felt they were poor defensively and I felt that the loss of Michel Vorm was visible and his replacement, Gerhard Tremmel looked uncertain and not in control of his defence on several occasions.
Spurs have the boost of potentially having Scott Parker, BAE, Michael Dawson and even Gareth Bale back from injury, though all are currently either lacking games or not 100% at the time of writing. Whether AVB would risk too many changes, by adding returning players is unlikely for me. I could see a situation where if Bale is deemed 100% or near, he plays, but of the others, I'm not so sure that we will see anything better than a place on the bench and we will once again see a side much the same as at Everton last weekend. This is a rare game where it is Spurs who have had the weeks rest and our opponents have had the extra game. How this benefits Spurs or perhaps works against Swansea, is anyones guess, but I feel that in the case of a few Tottenham players a free mid-week has to be a positive, especially going to a hectic Christmas period. Another weeks rest between this game and Stoke, might allow AVB to give the returning players more time to be fully ready, which makes sense to me.
Though I love the idea of bringing BAE and Bale back into the side and allowing Jan Vertonghen to move inside to partner Steven Caulker, who will of course be playing against the side he did so well for last season. I feel we will again see Walker, Gallas, Caulker and Vertonghen in front of Hugo Lloris, though I would happily see Dawson in place of Gallas, if he is fully recovered from his hamstring injury. Should Bale not make it, I feel that Clint Dempsey will start on the left, with Lennon, Sandro and Dembele making up the midfield. Of course there might be a temptation to start with Gylfi Sigurdsson in place of Emmanuel Adebayor, but that would hint at sentimentality, and surely we can't have that in a Premiership manager… There is of course still a question mark over how well Adebayor is playing as an individual and also with the rest of the team, particularly Jermain Defoe. Is there a logic to start with Clint and Gylfi and leave Emmanuel on the bench? I will leave that for you to decide...