Another weekend, another crunch round of fixtures in the race for a Champions League place. This time, Tottenham Hotspur have the chance to ramp up the pressure on Arsenal and Chelsea by virtue of playing on the Saturday, and they know that only three points will be good enough away at Wigan, who are desperate for a win themselves as they battle relegation.
Spurs started Sunday's win over Manchester City fairly tamely, but ended firing on all cylinders to win 3-1. The win was largely put down to the changes in personnel and formation that Andre Villas-Boas made in the second half, with Holtby and Huddlestone joining Dembele in a three man midfield, behind Dempsey, Defoe and Bale, who took up a position on the right flank to great effect.
Tottenham fans could be forgiven for saying that they should start with this line-up on Saturday, but there are plenty of factors to consider. Aaron Lennon could be fit for the match, which would mean Bale moving back to the left and Dempsey, with three goals in two games, dropping to the bench. It would also mean no place for Sigurdsson, who has been in good form of late, and would place a lot of pressure on Holtby and Huddlestone to start in the centre of midfield.
However the switch could give gives Spurs new vitality and impetus in the closing weeks, and disrupt any opposition plans based around the 4-2-3-1 unit they have used for most of the year. The system is also one that Andre Villas-Boas has used before to great effect during his unbeaten season at Porto. Many had expected the Portuguese manager to look at using a 4-3-3 formation in his second season when he had had more of a chance to assemble the right squad, but introducing it a few months early might just give Spurs the boost they need to claim a top four place.
Lennon has to start if fit, and Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Parker might all feel slightly aggrieved at being benched (as indeed will Emmanuel Adebayor, although he can have few complaints) but if the formation is as effective against Wigan as it was against Manchester City, Spurs should be able to pick up a vital three points.
image: © Vladimir Maiorov