Spurs: Free Up Bale To Annihilate Larsson & Secure Three Points

The Welshman is getting back to his brilliant following a less than stunning start to the campaign and if Spurs can ensure he's performing at the Stadium of Light, it will see Andre Villas-Boas' side end 2013 with a win.
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The Welshman is getting back to his brilliant following a less than stunning start to the campaign and if Spurs can ensure he's performing at the Stadium of Light, it will see Andre Villas-Boas' side end 2013 with a win.

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It's funny how much difference patience can make. Three months ago, there were some sections of the Tottenham Hotspur faithful calling for the head of Andre Villas-Boas, while numerous media reports suggested the 35-year-old had just three games to save his job.

Fast forward to December, and bar the defeat to Everton, the young tactician is everyone's favourite manager after picking up 10 points from a possible 15, with four clean sheets thrown in for good measure.

The Boxing Day win over Aston Villa was arguably Spurs' finest performance of the season. Paul Lambert's side rarely threatened, mustering a measly one shot on target, but it was a straight forward 4-0 victory nevertheless.

The first half may not have been ideal, what with Brad Guzan doing his utmost to deny Spurs as the visitors lacked the cutting edge to really break down the Villa barricades, winning an astonishing 15 corners in the first half alone leaving them unable to truly threaten the hosts.

However, once Jermain Defoe netted the first in the 57th minute, the cliched floodgates well a truly opened, with Gareth Bale putting the Villa backline to the sword to net an impressive hat-trick to keep up his festive tradition of netting away from home.

It possibly could've been a higher scoreline, but you won't find many Spurs fan swotting away a 4-0 win away from home. Yet, with a daunting trip to Sunderland awaiting the club on the final game of 2012, it isn't going to be as easy a three points as many may well hope.

It's fair to say Sunderland haven't been performing to their full capability this season under Martin O'Neill. The Black Cats are currently languishing in the bottom half of the table, but two sumptuous back-to-back wins - against Southampton and Manchester City respectively - have dragged the club away from the relegation zone.

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A positive result for Spurs is a must if they are to cement their place in the top four ready for 2013, but it's fair to say the result could sway in either teams direction, with the pairing taking four points apiece the last three times they've met at the Stadium of Light.

After last season's dire 0-0 draw, a spark of magic may well be the difference between one point and three for Spurs. And with Bale in fine fettle over Christmas and now fully in tune with AVB's system, he will continue to be influential going forward.

All but handed a free pass to roam further forward behind the front-man, Bale has really begun to grasp his license to attack the opposition to devastating effect, currently possessing an astonishing return of 13 goals and seven assists in 25 games.

His performances have seen Villas-Boas dub the Wales international as 'one of the best in the world', comments that will only boost his confidence higher. His words could prove to be the turning point in Bale's season, especially ahead of today's lunchtime kick off.

As long as Sunderland don't double mark the Welshman, who has been known to see his influence dwindle when under the cosh from the opposition, and Spurs can feed Bale to run at Sebastian Larsson, who is likely to start at right-back following the 1-0 win over City on Wednesday, then it could be a long afternoon would the Swede.

A testament to his improvement in performances is the fact that he's already equalled his highest Premier League goals tally with only half the season gone. Yet, it's this that will likely see Sunderland look to ensure his impact is limited this afternoon.

While this is likely to fall nicely into the hands of Spurs, who can call upon the creative talents of Mousa Dembele and Aaron Lennon, it could see his input nullified. Nevertheless, if Bale can perform as well as he did against Villa on Boxing Day, then it could well see Villas-Boas' side come away from the Stadium of Light with maximum points.