Redknapp backs Defoe to shine

Redknapp backs Defoe to shine

Published Jan. 21, 2012 1:16 p.m. ET

Spurs are looking to blow the Premier League title race wide open with a shock victory in the hotly-anticipated showdown.

Redknapp's team have only been beaten once in the league since Roberto Mancini's men strolled in to north London and underlined their status as title favourites by putting Spurs to the sword in a merciless 5-1 win last August.

Adebayor's arrival in the aftermath of the City humbling has helped Spurs turn around their season, with the former Arsenal striker slotting comfortably in to a strong strike partnership with forward Rafael van der Vaart.

The terms of Adebayor's loan deal from City mean he is ineligible to play in Sunday's game, so Redknapp has been left with no other choice but to put Defoe alongside Van der Vaart - a combination that has rarely worked since the Dutchman signed from Real Madrid two years ago.


Last season Redknapp preferred to combine Van der Vaart with mis-firing Peter Crouch and the Spurs boss has tried to pair Defoe with the Holland man on just one occasion in the league this term - the 3-0 opening day defeat at Manchester United.

Defoe is becoming increasingly unhappy at his lack of game time this season, but Redknapp has no doubt that the 29-year-old will rise to the occasion and combine well with Van der Vaart on Sunday.

The 64-year-old said: "I went to Villa last season and played Defoe and Rafa and we won 2-0. Defoe got sent off that day, but I quite fancy Defoe's movement with Rafa.

"Jermain has been bursting for a chance to get back in and play so he has got the opportunity now.

"We have to play good football in to them, though. We can't be hitting long forward balls up to Defoe expecting him to win challenges with their central defenders."

The 5-1 hammering at White Hart Lane proved to be a turning point in Tottenham's season.

That, and the defeat at United the week before, signalled to chairman Daniel Levy that the club were desperately in need of new signings and Adebayor and Scott Parker duly arrived, while Luka Modric was persuaded to stay on despite Chelsea's interest.

At that point, critics were already predicting Tottenham would be vying for a Europa League place this season, but they have defied all expectations and now sit third in the table, 10 points ahead of fifth-place Arsenal and just five adrift of City.

Redknapp insists he never panicked last August despite his team's poor start.

"I knew we would be a different team in a week or two," Redknapp said.

"It wasn't as if I said to myself: 'This is my team for the season, I'm in trouble here'.

"I knew we had reinforcements coming in that would make the difference and we were hopeful Luka would stay.

"I didn't go home that night despondent.

"When we brought a couple of faces in, everyone got a lift. It was a different team."

Redknapp is rightly confident of his side's chances of breaking City's 100% home record on Sunday.

His team do look a completely different outfit to the one that performed so meekly against Mancini's men and for that reason he is hopeful last summer's hiding will not play on his players' minds at the Etihad Stadium.

"I don't think it will (be a factor)," Redknapp added.

"We have been up there and played well the last couple of years."

Tottenham's hopes of victory appear to have been weakened, however, by the likely absence of captain Ledley King, who has been struggling to recover from a hamstring injury for the last four weeks.

King has not been on a losing Spurs side since August 2010 and Redknapp admits it will be a big blow if the centre back is ruled out.

"He always gives the team an air of confidence when he plays," Redknapp added.

"You always feel he's in control of the situation a bit like (Alan) Hansen or (Mark) Lawrenson or like Bobby Moore.

"They were always in the right place - they see something developing before it develops and Ledley is like that."