Tottenham v Portsmouth: Fratt boys are down but not out

THEY say you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but Portsmouth seem to be the exception. They are certainly making the most of their final days in the Premier League, winning four of their seven games in all competitions...

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR V PORTSMOUTH PREVIEW BY BEN PEARCE

Saturday, 3pm

THEY say you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but Portsmouth seem to be the exception.

They are certainly making the most of their final days in the Premier League, winning four of their seven games in all competitions before last night's clash with Chelsea and eagerly awaiting an FA Cup semi-final.


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Saturday's heroic comeback victory over Hull (3-2) gave Pompey fans another shot of morphine, and five members of backroom staff - who had recently been sacked - were back at work this week after the players had a whip-round to fund their wages.

Rarely has there been such a positive atmosphere around a relegated club, but sooner or later the pain will set in.

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Of course, the south coast outfit can technically escape, but only the most deluded fans truly believe that their side can defy the drop.

The nine-point penalty that Pompey incurred for going into administration was the final nail in the coffin, effectively consigning them to the Championship seven weeks before the end of the season.

However, even without the interference of bankers and lawyers, the playing squad were already at the bottom of the table in mid-March, and Pompey's form over the course of the season is wholly deserving of relegation.

Spurs will keenly note that Grant's side have been particularly poor away from home, losing 11 of their 15 top-flight fixtures away from Fratton Park and conceding 29 goals in the process.

Nineteen of those have come in the six visits to the other members of the current top seven. Liverpool ran out convincing 4-1 winners at Anfield last Monday night, Arsenal put four past Pompey at the Emirates and Manchester United won 5-0 at Old Trafford.

There is no excuse for Spurs to slip up this weekend. Pompey have little more than a pipe dream to play for in the league, their players will all be desperate to avoid injury as they eye their trip to Wembley in two weeks, and they will be missing two or three of their most creative players.

Loanee Jamie O'Hara has emerged as one of the stars of the season, and his sumptuous free kick against Hull on Saturday underlined his rise to stardom at Fratton Park, but he will be ineligible to face his parent club.

O'Hara will be a major loss and Kevin-Prince Boateng - who scored against Spurs when the sides met on the south coast in October - is unable to face his old club again due to injury.

That leaves Pompey with an uninspiring midfield of Marc Wilson, Michael Brown and either Hayden Mullins or Aaron Mokoena - a quartet that have mustered a grand total of one goal from 100 combined appearances this season.

Meanwhile striker Aruna Dindane, who had a horror-show against Spurs at Fratton Park but has netted seven goals in the campaign, may have played his last game for the club.

Due to a clause in his loan deal, Pompey will have to sign the Ivory Coast international permanently and pay Lens �4million if he plays one more game. As Grant says, "At the moment Portsmouth cannot pay even �4." The club hope to arrange a new deal this week and sidestep the clause.

Ham&High Sport verdict: If there has ever been an easy game in the Premier League - and an absolute must-win - this is it.

Failure to secure victory could be a killer blow to Spurs' top-four challenge as they face Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in their final seven games, and all of the other top teams have done the business when the basement boys have come to visit. Spurs have their own notable absentees, but they should still have enough to win.

Prediction: Spurs 2 Portsmouth 0

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