As Tottenham Hotspur head to Spain to play their final match before the Premier League kicks off next weekend, it is difficult to assess how successful their pre-season has been as a club.
New boss Andre Villas-Boas replaced Harry Redknapp in June and has made a decent impression so far: his public proclamations have been encouraging and he seems a little bit more humble after his chastising time at Chelsea. And with plenty to prove after being sacked at Stamford Bridge after nine months, AVB seems focused.
Results on the pitch have been decent, too. Spurs are unbeaten in five pre-season outings and all the signs are that the players are starting to buy into the former Porto manager’s ethos. With evolution rather than revolution needed – Villas-Boas’ main downfall at Chelsea was trying to change things too quickly and going about it the wrong way – Spurs and AVB may be a good fit.
Off the pitch, however, things are not going to plan. Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen is a fine buy, but their attempts to bolster the squad have been hampered by the saga over Luka Modric’s inevitable departure and until there is some movement with the Croatian playmaker, Spurs seem hamstrung in their attempts to add some desperately-needed attacking players.
Until that is addressed – Emmanuel Adebayor’s wage demands are keeping his transfer in the balance (who’d have thought?) and a deal for Leandro Damiao is seemingly no nearer being completed – Tottenham’s Champions League ambitions will be undermined severely.
A trip to the Mestalla to face Valencia is the final chance for AVB to put his troops to the test before the big kick-off and it is far and away Spurs’ sternest test of the summer. The home side are even money to win the match, with Tottenham priced at 9/4 and the draw at 23/10.
Valencia can confidently claim to be the best of the rest in Spain after three consecutive third-placed finishes in La Liga. The days of them usurping the giants of Spanish football, Barcelona and Real Madrid, as they did when Los Che won the title in 2002 and 2004 under Rafael Benitez, look unlikely to return any time soon, such is the dominance and financial power of the big two.
But Valencia remain Champions League regulars and a fine side despite often having to sell their best assets. Even this summer, Spanish international Jordi Alba has been sold to Barcelona (following the recent big-name departures of David Silva and David Villa), which shows how tough the rest of La Liga has it.
Former defender Mauricio Pellegrino, an integral part of those championship-winning sides, has just taken over at the Mestalla from Unai Emery and Valencia are expected to remain competitive as ever.
The match between the two sides on Thursday will be competitive, too, and at the prices on offer, I like the draw at 23/10, with new customers standing to win £66 if they successfully back it with their free £20 bet upon joining bwin.com.
Both sides have drawn three games apiece over the summer (both have recorded two wins, as well) and I think the squads are fairly evenly matched.
Tottenham’s lack of out-and-out strikers is a worry, but even if Jermain Defoe is their only senior option, in Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart Spurs have enough to trouble the home defence and I think a draw is the most likely outcome. All three of Valencia’s draws have been 1-1 and that is a 11/2 chance.
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