Six successive defeats and by an aggregate score of 17-1; It’s fair to say that Aston Villa have hardly looked forward to facing Tottenham since the start of the 2012/13 Premier League season.
However, with a new manager in charge and one that is determined to play attacking football, even if Tim Sherwood fails to improve Villa’s win record, there is a strong chance that their goals-for column will at least receive a bit of a boost.
After all, Spurs haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet at White Hart Lane in 2015, conceding 12 goals in their six home matches. Meanwhile, Villa have netted 10 across their last five top-flight fixtures.
Aston Villa scoring exactly two goals here can be backed at 4/1, which looks a fine bet if the above-mentioned two averages are maintained.
It is a victory Villa require to improve their prospects of Premier League survival and 9/2 is the price about Sherwood masterminding a success against his former club.
But how should he do it?
Sherwood opted for a midfield diamond in the midweek draw with QPR, but he is normally fairly old-school in his preference of the classic 4-4-2 set-up.
With Scott Sinclair and Carles Gil among the handful of players currently hogging the Villa treatment table, lining up in this way becomes trickier with natural width being an issue. This is even more the case now that Joe Cole looks unable to play this role, instead being better suited to a central position just off the strikers.
This is also true of youngster Jack Grealish, who would be more of a replica of Manchester City’s Samir Nasri starting in the wide areas than a natural winger. This gives Sherwood limited options.
Yet despite the injuries, the following starting XI is still available to him;
Leandro Bacuna has done a worthy job filling in as a makeshift defender in recent weeks, but he did struggle against QPR, with a lacklustre header leading to the opening goal before he was hauled off in the second half.
Playing him ahead of recognised defender Matt Lowton should enable Villa to look more compact down their right side.
Leicester may have lost 4-3 at Spurs in late March, but there is plenty that Villa can learn from their midlands neighbours from an attacking standpoint.
Tottenham gave up seven goal attempts from headers, with Leandro Ulloa involved in 10 aerial duels in the match for the visitors.
What is key in Spurs’ structure under Mauricio Pochettino is a keenness to press the ball in high areas, which has a knock-on effect of creating a high defensive line, to prevent the gap between the defence and midfield getting too large. This is where playmakers are afforded maximum space strut their stuff.
Villa are not always the safest in possession through the midfield and could find themselves in big trouble if giving the ball away in their own half.
Sherwood is encouraging Villa to pass the ball through the team, with a far greater focus on possession than was ever the case previously under Paul Lambert.
But it is Lambert’s preferred counter-attacking tactic that may serve Villa best at White Hart Lane.
Gabby Agbonlahor will be licking his lips if lining up against a defence that is keen to press high up the pitch given the threat of his pace in behind and opting to play more direct will limit the likelihood of getting robbed in possession in the wrong areas.
Kyle Walker and Danny Rose both have defensive deficiencies for Spurs and are clearly selected for their attacking capabilities at full-back, over their defensive positioning and understanding.
It is down Walker’s flank where Villa may have the most joy, if recent statistics are taken at face value.
Looking back at the last seven rounds of fixtures, only four Premier League teams have allowed more crosses to be delivered from their right flank than Spurs and the same number have conceded fewer chances down this side.
Tottenham rank much more favourably in both of these areas down their left side across the same period.
Charles N’Zogbia and to a lesser extent Bacuna are more than able to get to the byline and supply crosses should their direct rivals commit too much to their attacking instincts. They sent over eight crosses between them in the recent 4-0 demolishing of Sunderland, which effectively caused the sacking of Gus Poyet at the Stadium of Light.
Christian Benteke is arguably even better than Ulloa as a target man and it will be interesting whether Spurs stick to their usual formula of a high defensive line to excite Agbonlahor or drop slightly deeper and allow Villa to target longer balls towards their Belgian striker in positions closer to goal.
If Villa make the most of their pace in the final third and the form of Benteke, who has seven goals in his last five Premier League appearances, 9/2 is certainly a reasonable price that they leave White Hart Lane with a rare victory.
For those wanting what appears the safer bet at the Lane, 4/6 is hard to oppose that over 2.5 goals are scored across the match.
Sherwood stated in his post-match interview that if Villa happened to be relegated, then they would go down swinging and that there would be no focus towards getting players behind the ball. He feels his team are at their best when allowed to play on the front foot.
Tottenham are no strangers to high-scoring matches either, with 77 per cent of their Premier League matches so far this season witnessing a minimum of three goals scored. No other club has a higher percentage in this area.