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Can Hammers stop the kings of the capital?

PUBLISHED: 17:16 19 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:23 07 September 2010

West Ham United's Carlton Cole (L) jumps for the ball with Tottenham Hotspur's Wilson Palacios during their football match in the English Premier League Asia Trophy tournament at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing on July 29, 2009.     AFP PHOTO/PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

West Ham United's Carlton Cole (L) jumps for the ball with Tottenham Hotspur's Wilson Palacios during their football match in the English Premier League Asia Trophy tournament at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing on July 29, 2009. AFP PHOTO/PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

DESPITE the disappointment of the last campaign, Spurs fans will hope that some aspects of last season s form continue unabated. Happily, Sunday's victory over Liverpool suggests that Tottenham can maintain their impressive...

By Ben Pearce

DESPITE the disappointment of the last campaign, Spurs fans will hope that some aspects of last season's form continue unabated.

Happily, Sunday's victory over Liverpool suggests that Tottenham can maintain their impressive performances at White Hart Lane and continue to take points off the 'Big Four'.

And Lilywhites fans will be hoping for another particularly enjoyable hangover from last season - Spurs took more points from London derbies than any other top-flight team in the capital, taking 13 from a possible 24.

This weekend Harry Redknapp's side start their defence of that mini-title as they make the short trip east to Upton Park - and the omens are good.

Not only did Tottenham complete the double over the Hammers last season, but they also overcame Gianfranco Zola's outfit in Beijing just three weeks ago - dominating the pre-season match and winning 1-0 courtesy of Jermain Defoe's 75th-minute winner.

The 26-year-old striker has developed a remarkable habit of netting against his former employers recently, and has done so on every occasion since rejoining Spurs in January, after also netting against Tottenham with Pompey at Fratton Park last season.

Spurs will hope for more of the same on Sunday, and they encounter an unstable Hammers side who have yet to settle on their first team for the campaign.

Centre-back James Collins played in the opening-day 2-0 win at Wolves but is likely to be a Stoke player before the weekend, and Zola is desperately hunting for a striker to partner a revitalised Carlton Cole.

The forward has recently turned his career around, and was selected ahead of Peter Crouch in last week's England squad. After an impressive second-half performance in the 2-2 draw with Holland, alongside Defoe, he is now a major contender for the World Cup.

"Suddenly Carlton Cole's come from nowhere, came on the other day [for England] and did okay and now people are talking about him," said Redknapp. "That's how it is. A year ago you would never have put him in - ask West Ham fans."

Cole may be making waves in east London, along with Three Lions squad members Robert Green and Matthew Upson, but Zola will be concerned about Spurs' visit on Sunday.

Left-back Herita Ilunga came off with a head injury against Wolves and may miss out - a major blow for the Hammers, who have no specialist cover in that position, and music to the ears of a certain Aaron Lennon.

Meanwhile, Luis Boa Morte is out of action long-term, after injuring his knee against Spurs in China last month, while Dean Ashton virtually lives in the treatment room.

In the meantime Luis Jiminez is available, but Hammers fans are still waiting to see if the Inter Milan loanee is fit for the Premier League - like Luka Modric last season, the technical Chile international will take time to adapt to the rigours of England's top flight.

And, speaking of Modric, he will be shadowed by Julien Faubert, who was signed as a right midfielder but failed to impress and has since withdrawn to full-back, where he is learning to defend - like Gareth Bale, except Faubert actually gets into the team.

Ham&High Sport predicts: West Ham may have a strong spine and a handful of emerging England stars, but they lack width going forward and their full-backs look vulnerable.

Spurs will surely focus on that weakness and, in Lennon and Modric, have the combination of pace and guile to take full advantage.

Tottenham win (2-1)


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