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Tuesday, 01 December 2009

Tottenham Hotspur: Carling Cup success or top four finish? You decide!


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High-flying Tottenham Hotspur travel to the home of the champions and Carling Cup holders Manchester United tonight in a match that could potentially see them being just 180 minutes away from their third Wembley final in as many years. Unfortunately for those Spurs fans who have shelled out good money to watch their team at Old Trafford, it appears that they will be watching a weakened side as Harry Redknapp insists his main priority is to finish in the top four.

Is the former Portsmouth chief right to put all of his eggs in one basket or are you concerned that he may be about to repeat the same mistake that Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill made last season?

Tottenham are a team on the up and are currently in the driving seat to qualify for the lucrative Champions League places. They have been scoring goals for fun and while the defence hasn’t exactly been water tight they have more than enough ammunition up front to threaten any side. Spurs are full of confidence after thrashing Wigan and dominating Aston Villa at the weekend, so shouldn’t Redknapp head up the M6 with his strongest squad to keep momentum and confidence going?

The north London giants have a proud tradition when it comes to cup competitions and the fans love nothing more than to roll up at Wembley on cup final day. I’m sure 99 per cent of fans would rather have another piece of silverware in the trophy cabinet than finish fourth, but hey I may be wrong. Maybe Redknapp is right. Qualification to the Champions League would bring in more money to the club and allow them to sign some of the real quality players in world football. However, at this stage of the season is it not a bit premature to deny yourself the opportunity of cup success in order to finish fourth in a long and tiring Premier League season?

Aston Villa made a similar mistake last season by fielding a weakened side in the UEFA Cup. They were knocked out by CSKA Moscow in February and subsequently went on to win just two of their remaining league games. O’Neill’s men were looking good for fourth place just after Christmas but that poor decision ultimately cost them that shot and they went on to finish a disappointing sixth.

The one difference between Spurs and Villa though is that Redknapp has a much bigger squad to choose from, but players want to win and being left out of a game against Manchester United – who let’s not forget took the Carling Cup trophy off them last season – will be a massive blow to them as I’m sure they would love to end their terrible run at Old Trafford.

Of course Redknapp has to look after his players and nobody would be happy if one of his star men were injured in a game like this, but what do we watch football for? It’s to see our teams win, and not only that but we want to see them win silverware.

Manchester United are also likely to play a second string tonight so it’s not as if Spurs have thrown in the towel before the game’s even started but they have made it tough on themselves. However, the question I’m asking you Spurs fans is: If you were Redknapp what would you do tonight? Play a few fringe players and concentrate on the league or play your strongest 11 in the hope of booking a semi-final spot in the Carling Cup? I’d love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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