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The importance of tomorrow’s friendly

Optimism by some, pessimism for others, how will the Europa League affect our campaign? Will Spurs finish in the top four again? Is another trophy N17 bound? It’s enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

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So, it’s close now isn’t it? 8 days from now and Spurs will be kicking off their league campaign as Everton make the trip to White Hart Lane.

Optimism by some, pessimism for others, how will the Europa League affect our campaign? Will Spurs finish in the top four again? Is another trophy N17 bound? It’s enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

But prior to all of this, the final pre-season friendly. The biggest of the warm-up games for Spurs. Roma, Fiorentina and Villarreal have all made trip across continental Europe in the past and tomorrow’s sees Atletic Bilbao welcomed to North London as we look to finish the pre-season programme with a win.

Much speculation has been made of this fixture due to the reports that Fernando Llorente becoming a Spurs player may be an outcome of the fixture.

But more pressing matters are at hand rather than the rumours of a potential signing. Tomorrows match gives fans the chance to an ideal insight into the starting XI come 3 o’clock next Saturday.

Goalkeeper

Spurs are lucky to have three top goalkeepers in Brad Friedel, Heurelho Gomes and Carlo Cudicini to challenge for the number one spot.

Gomes has been Redknapp’s first choice since he arrived while Cudicini makes for a worthy number two, having staked his claim for a starting role in the final three games of last season.

Yet, the signing of Friedel has risen the competition levels that little bit higher. The American has been a consistent performer with Aston Villa in the past and moved to Spurs to challenge for the number one spot.

But who will Redknapp persist with? The manager has been keeping his cards pretty close to his chest pre-season giving all three ample time to showcase their abilities ahead of the new season.

Many are speculating that it will be Friedel but it is Gomes who looked the best during pre-season and some have opted for the Brazilian.

Whoever starts in goal tomorrow should allow us to see which keeper will be between the sticks for the season opener and I have a funny feeling Redknapp will stick with Gomes rather than use Friedel or Cudicini.

Defence

More of a case for the full-backs. The centre-back pairing of Dawson and Gallas is the most likely scenario against Everton and it is the full-backs where the competition is arising.

At right-back, Spurs have Vedran Corluka, Alan Hutton and Kyle Walker to challenge for one spot.

I believe Hutton will be at the bottom of the pecking leaving Walker and Corluka in a two-horse race for the position.

Walker was superb on loan at Villa last year and was a bright-spark in England’s dreary U21 European Championship campaign. Yet, for all his attacking prowess, defensively, Walker is a but susceptible.

In steps Corluka who defensively is better than the former Sheffield United player but attacking wise, doesn’t posses the ability to explode down the wing, overlapping the winger and adding another dimension to the Spurs attack.

Walker has been favoured by Redknapp in pre-season and I believe his performances for England have sealed his starting spot against Everton.

At left-back, it’s Danny Rose and Benoit Assou-Ekotto in direct competition with each other for a similar starting spot.

Rose did well during Assou-Ekotto’s time on the sidelines but it is hard to overlook the Cameroonian who, for me, was one of the players of the season last season for Spurs.

And for that reason, the 27-year-old will most likely get the nod ahead of the U21 England international but it’s good that some decent competition for Assou-Ekotto has finally arisen from the youth ranks.

Midfield

The wingers, for me, aren’t the problem. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are the most natural widemen Spurs have.

It’s the centre of the park where the competition really arises. Luka Modric wants to join Chelsea and his future at White Hart Lane is still shrouded under a cloud of doubt. If he is still with Spurs, I believe he still needs to start as he is our most naturally gifted midfielder.

His partner, on the other hand, is another conundrum altogether. Tom Huddlestone was instrumental before his injury in November allowed Sandro to come in and, in the latter half of last season, improved dramatically, often picking up the man of the match accolade.

Such is his ability on the ball and positioning off it that Redknapp has a further selection headache on his hands. However, Sandro is currently sidelined for, if reports are to be believed, another two months after knee surgery so will need time to recover before he is back to his bruising best.

Once he is back though, the battle between these two heavyweights for a place in the starting XI is sure to be a knockout affair. As for the likes of Wilson Palacios and Jermaine Jenas, it is looking more and more like their days at the club are numbered. Links to Scott Parker and Joey Barton will surely do little to convince them that their futures lie at White Hart Lane and I, amongst others, will be very surprised if one, if not both, are shipped out before the close of the transfer window.

Forwards

Right, onto the frontline. Where do I start? We need new strikers, all four can’t cut butter with a hot knife and we are no closer to signing anyone than we were two months ago.

I thinks it’s a fair to say that Robbie Keane is bottom of the pecking order and, despite doing his utmost best getting West Ham relegated, just isn’t the player he was pre-Liverpool.

Peter Crouch is a funny one. On his day is an absolute handful for any defence and in Europe is a real asset. However, his day just doesn’t come around that often. His touch can be great but it’s his inability to header which let’s him down. Opts to climb over defenders rather than jump and win the headers, conceding fouls in the process. It’s painful to watch, made worse by the fact that Michael Dawson doesn’t hesitate in hoofing the ball 60-yards only for the 6-foot-7 forward to concede yet another foul.

Next is Jermain Defoe. The former West Ham striker was, let’s face it, excellent when he first moved here and even more say with his second stint. However, went off the boil last season due to injury and has last that spark that made him such a potent threat to defenders. Complains when he isn’t in the squad but did little to warrant his place amongst starting XI.

Towards the end of last season, however, began to re-showcase his abilities with a couple of fine strikes including a 25-yard effort against West Brom. If he can regain his confidence, can be the striker that often proved a thorn in the side of Premiership defenders.

Roman Pavlyuchenko has proven to be our most prolific striker but only shows glimpse of his ability and too often will go missing against teams that like to rough it up. Deserves his chance and is overlooked on occasions despite having a better goals-to-games ratio compared to the other three forwards. If any striker was to stay this season, chances are it will be the Russian.

Rafael Van see Vaart may not be a striker but his forward role means he is part of the group. Untouchable, top scorer and will start at the beginning of the season, injury persisting. Gave Spurs that touch of class and proved to be one of the signings of season.

Should we sell two strikers, which I hope happens, then chances are it will be Keane and Crouch. Defoe has the ability to score the goals again and Pav will prove his ability should he be given the games.

However, a new striker wouldn’t go a miss and if Spurs did sign Llorente or Adebayor, then that is perfect in my opinion. Both can play upfront on their own and will thrive with the creativity from the midfield.

On the other hand, young Harry Kane is another option from the academy while Souleymane Coulibaly looks to have a hint of Samuel Eto’o about him, which isn’t a bad thing to say the least.

Tomorrows fixture will give fans a great insight into starting XI the following week in a game which could prove to be more important than some would hope.

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