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Lee Dixon: Battle of the defences as Spurs and Sunderland clash on Wearside

Jan Vertonghen has played the most minutes of all the Tottenham' rearguard

"With 20 goals from 19 games, Sunderland are not heavy goalscorers and they won't want to go toe-to-toe with Tottenham so I imagine they'll try to keep it tight. Spurs may have scored four at Villa, but they could only put one past Stoke and Swansea in the preceding two games."

Back 0-0 @ 12.011/1), 1-0 @ 12.011/1 and 0-1 @ 8.615/2

Two in-form defences meet at the Stadium of Light in the early Saturday kick-off and Lee Dixon thinks we're in for a low-scoring affair...

Both Sunderland and Tottenham landed very satisfying victories on Boxing Day and this has all the hallmarks of a very tight, competitive match. 

Beating the champions is a major boost to the Black Cats and banishes at a stroke all the talk of crisis on Wearside. Martin O'Neill's side have rediscovered their defensive mojo at just the right time and should kick on into the second-half of the season with a spring in their step now.  

But they face a huge test in the early Saturday kick-off against a Spurs side that dominated Aston Villa last time out. Gareth Bale's hat-trick stole the headlines but it was a very impressive team performance and the recent returns of some other key players from injury - namely Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker - shouldn't be overlooked. Tottenham are nearly at full strength and they are a tough opponent for any Premier League side right now. 

Like Sunderland - who have shut out Man City, Saints and Reading in recent games - Spurs are in a rich vein of defensive form having put together three consecutive clean sheets in the league, regardless of Andre Villas-Boas tinkering with the personnel on a game-by-game basis. 

It's not the way I'd have liked it, and it was not the way we did it at Arsenal of course, but the game has changed since my day with more attacking expected of most defenders and increased rotation could be a symptom of that. I suspect the Tottenham defenders would prefer a more settled unit with regular defensive partners each week (as long as they were in the XI of course), but it's working and there have been no complaints from the Spurs players. 

And with both teams in such strong form at the back I fancy one or both to keep a clean sheet.

With 20 goals from 19 games, Sunderland are not heavy goalscorers and they won't want to go toe-to-toe with Tottenham so I imagine they'll try to keep it tight. Spurs may have scored four at Villa, but they could only put one past Stoke and Swansea in the preceding two games. They can be frustrated

I agree with the Betfair market, Tottenham are the likeliest winners but I'm not interested in backing them at 2.1211/10. For me the approach is to back three correct scores - 0-0 (12.011/1), 1-0 (12.011/1) and 0-1 (8.615/2) - as well as the halftime draw at 2.35/4.

Recommended Bets
Back 0-0 @ 12.011/1), 1-0 @ 12.011/1 and 0-1 @ 8.615/2
Back the halftime draw at 2.35/4 


The Betfair's Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Sunderland had a great win over champions Manchester City on Boxing day and have another tough game against high flying Tottenham. Having only beaten sides in the bottom three (Reading and Wigan), the defeat of City came as something of a surpise. The Black Cats have scored in all but two of their home fixtures this season (Aston Villa and QPR) and, defensively, are ranked 8th at home conceding an average of 1.11 goals per game, keeping two clean sheets in their last two fixtures.

Tottenham are top of the league in attacking away from home, scoring in every away fixture and averaging 2.22 goals per game away from the Lane. Only three times this season have they failed to score twice or more on the road. All nine away games have produced over 2.5 goals. Tottenham away games average 3.89 goals per game.

So which will prevail, Sunderland’s defensive qualities or Tottenham’s attacking flair? I think the fact that Chelsea put three and West Brom put four past Sunderland at the Stadium of Light suggests that they will concede against the better sides. I am going with Tottenham to keep up their 100% away record and will back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.12 .

The Tactical View: Michael Cox

Sunderland and Tottenham both recorded impressive victories on Boxing Day, but I think both will start slowly here having expended a lot of energy just three days beforehand. Spurs’ last two matches have been 0-0 at half-time, while Sunderland have taken a while to get started in their eventual victories over Manchester City and Southampton. If you can back a half-time score of 0-0 at around 3.0, take it immediately.

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27 December 2012

Premier League

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