Match to be played on Wednesday 4th December 2013 at 20:00. Venue: Craven Cottage, London.
There is always a lot riding on London derbies: bragging rights, decades of bitterness, players turning out against their old teams, they're often fiercely competed with a lot riding on them. And Wednesday's game between Fulham and Spurs is no different.
Before their loss against West Ham this match looked like it would be pitting an ex-Spurs manager under pressure against a current Spurs manager under pressure. One of those issues has already been resolved, and now new Fulham head couch Rene Meulensteen takes charge of his first game against a Tottenham side eager to claim three points and get back in the mix towards the top of the league. Meulensteen was described by Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie as "one of the best coaches in the world" but has never managed in England. He certainly has some decent players at Fulham, and it will be interesting to see both what he can do in time for the Spurs game, and for the longer term.
Tottenham claimed a decent point against champions United after a difficult week that has seen heavy media cynicism against manager Andre Villas-Boas. There were plenty of positives in the game on Sunday and Villas-Boas will be eager to tackle the next game swiftly. Spurs have a lot of games this month but the majority are winnable, and where they are going into the New Year will have a bearing on both where the Londoners will end up in the league by the end of the season, and the Portuguese's long-term job prospects.
Villas-Boas will be unlikely to tinker with his team too much after they responded well to the heavy defeat by Manchester City against the other Manchester club. Jan Vertonghen is likely to continue playing at left-back until Danny Rose returns to fitness. Michael Dawson had a difficult game against both Manchester clubs, but is likely to keep his place despite Younes Kaboul being available purely because the Frenchman had an even more torrid time against City. Sandro and Dembele are sure to start after impressing on Sunday, as will Lennon who had his best game of the season.
The real talking points come at that left-wing spot and up front. Jermain Defoe looked sharp when he came on, and can't be far from having another Premier League start. But if he is indeed heading to Canada before the end of the year then it really makes no sense to diminish the confidence of Soldado further by replacing him with a player deemed offload-able. Likewise, I see the manager picking Erik Lamela over Andros Townsend and Gylfi Sigurdsson, as a match of this kind against a struggling team is the perfect chance to give him a little more game time.
This is the eleven I see Villas-Boas starting:
Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Jan Vertonghen; Sandro, Paulinho, Moussa Dembele, Aaron Lennon, Erik Lamela; Roberto Soldado