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Fulham v Tottenham Cup game - preview

last updated Saturday 29th January 2011, 11:50 AM

Fulham manager Mark Hughes
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
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Fulham are no longer a team to be taken lightly. Talk was rife that Mark Hughes was in danger of losing his job around the festive period but, even after the midweek defeat to Liverpool, they are four points clear of the relegation zone and look to be improving.

Hughes has been able to reinforce during the January window - with a permanent deal for box-to-box midfielder Steve Sidwell and Chelsea's Gael Kakuta arriving on loan, although the latter is cup-tied - and may well believe his team are capable of bettering the 0-0 Roy Hodgson's men achieved when Spurs arrived at Craven Cottage at the quarter-final stage last season.

"They are challenging for a top four place again and are in the last 16 of the Champions League, so we know it will be tough, but we have ability in our side too and perhaps haven't got the results we deserved at times," defender Aaron Hughes told the Belfast Telegraph. "Hopefully we'll get one on Sunday. We'll certainly go into the game with a positive attitude believing we can win."

Tottenham Manager Harry RedknappIt is a mark of Tottenham's progress in recent times that there have been suspicions Harry Redknapp could choose to rest some of his key players for the FA Cup fourth-round tie against London rivals Fulham.

A Champions League clash with AC Milan is little over two weeks away and, with three Premier League matches to play in the interim, Redknapp may risk some of his fringe players as he did against Charlton in the previous round. He is already without Gareth Bale, Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone and would be loath to lose anyone else at this juncture.

The availability of quality players beyond the first XI is an issue of increasing importance. Steven Pienaar has arrived during the transfer window, and Redknapp also looks set to retain Niko Kranjcar despite interest from Werder Bremen.

"We have a lot of games coming up," Redknapp said on Friday. "We are going to need a squad. There's talk that the Sunderland game that we have coming up could be an evening kick-off on a Saturday and then Tuesday we play AC Milan away, then we have them at home. These games are going to be coming thick and fast."

Fulham player to watch: Clint Dempsey. With Fulham having seen all three of their strikers suffer injury problems this season, Dempsey's eight Premier League goals have been crucial in keeping their heads above water. Moussa Dembele and Andy Johnson are fit again to provide some attacking impetus but, although he did not have his best night against Liverpool, Dempsey looks central to their hopes of progress on current form.

Tottenham player to watch: Luka Modric. While he does not attract as many headlines as Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart, Modric has been consistently brilliant and it is little surprise the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United are persistently linked with him. With Dickson Etuhu likely to miss out through injury, Steve Sidwell will be expected keep tabs on the Croatia star.

Key battle: John Pantsil v Steven Pienaar. Pienaar had an underwhelming start to the season at Everton after a disappointing World Cup campaign, but with his future now resolved he will be looking to recover the form that made him one of David Moyes' most important players. He comes up against a defender who could be low on confidence after his embarrassing own goal handed Liverpool a 1-0 victory in midweek.

Trivia: Tottenham are famous for their successes in years ending in a one, and they will be hoping to add the FA Cup this year to those in 1901, 1921, 1961, 1981 and 1991. They also won the trophy in 1962, 1967 and 1982.

Stats: Fulham look to have arrested the slump that saw them score only four goals and take only four points from the seven Premier League games leading up to Christmas. In the seven post-Christmas league fixtures, they have scored nine goals, taking ten points, while they also thrashed Peterborough 6-2 in the FA Cup.

Fulham loan signing Gael Kakuta is cup-tied having appeared already for Chelsea but new signing Steve Sidwell is available to play his second match following his arrival from Aston Villa. Bobby Zamora (leg), Philippe Senderos (Achilles) and Matthew Briggs (calf) are injured and Mark Schwarzer is on Asian Cup duty with Australia.

Gareth Bale is out for Tottenham with a back injury, though manager Harry Redknapp does not rate the problem as a serious one. Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee), Heurelho Gomes (shoulder) and Wilson Palacios (knee) should return after missing the Newcastle game but Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate (both groin), and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) remain sidelined.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Top scorers (all competitions): Clint Dempsey (Fulham) 9; Gareth Bale & Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham) 11

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Source Robin Hackett at ESPN
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