Aston Villa v Tottenham
PUBLISHED: 16:27 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:34 07 September 2010
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'THE ENEMY of my enemy is my friend', says the old Arabic proverb. Not in the Premier League. Tottenham may not be alone in their quest to overthrow the entrenched, elite ruling party of England's top flight...
By Ben Pearce
"THE ENEMY of my enemy is my friend", says the old Arabic proverb. Not in the Premier League.
Tottenham may not be alone in their quest to overthrow the entrenched, elite ruling party of England's top flight.
But it will be a cold day in hell when Spurs wish Aston Villa, Everton or Manchester City well in their own bids to storm the bastion of the 'Big Four'.
Instead, after swatting away a brief and epically disastrous uprising from Wigan, Harry Redknapp's Lilywhites must now concentrate on their fellow rebels - and turn their fire on rival pretenders to the throne of the top four.
Even ignoring a rather tasty Carling Cup clash with Manchester United next week, Spurs are currently gearing up for a massive month, in which they will face the chief contenders in the race for the Champions League places.
It is debatable whether Everton can claim to be in that group this season - the Toffees finished sixth last season but are currently 10 points off the pace, and just four above the relegation zone.
However, there can be little doubt that Aston Villa and Manchester City pose a very clear and present danger. Like Spurs, they have strong claims as heirs apparent to the top four - Liverpool will certainly agree as they look nervously up at all three of their main challengers.
Just as the 'Big Four' stress the importance of the head-to-heads in the title race, Spurs and Villa are now gearing up for an epic 'six-pointer' within the mini-league of the chasing pack.
On paper, Saturday's clash is one of the most evenly-matched duels in the Premier League and, sitting just three points apart at the moment, recent history can also barely separate them.
Since August 2000, Villa have won six meetings compared to Spurs' five, alongside seven draws out of a total of 18 games. Honours were also even last season, with both teams winning 2-1 away.
All over the park there will be similar players striving to eclipse their opposite numbers, and both teams may feel like they are playing against a mirror.
Both Spurs and Villa rely on a threat from the wings, and Aaron Lennon and Niko Kranjcar are likely to line up against Ashley Young and James Milner on the flanks.
Stewart Downing also came on to finally make his Villa debut at the weekend, after his £12million move from Middlesbrough in the summer.
Should Peter Crouch keep his place, he and John Carew will offer an aerial threat at opposite ends, while Jermain Defoe and Gabriel Agbonlahor will add the pace and movement.
Throw Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, Emile Heskey and Stephen Warnock into the equation, and there is more than just domestic football at stake - Fabio Capello is sure to be in attendance to watch his fringe players stand toe to toe.
Ham&High Sport verdict: This week there are no weak links, no obvious gaps to exploit and no easy solutions - no Erik Edman in other words.
This game is likely to be decided by a moment of brilliance or an individual error.
Either way the points will go to the side who perform on the day and win the personal duels. It may sound obvious, but football often doesn't work that way. This time it is gloriously simple.