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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Sizzling Spurs can cut Chelsea's lead to just one point

Superior fitness could be the key

Dele All has been a star performer for Spurs this season
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Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 8pm Friday

Tottenham finished last season with a whimper, taking two points from the last four games, but they look a more resilient bunch than 12 months ago and can cut the gap to Chelsea at the top of the Premier League to just one point by beating West Ham at the London Stadium.

The Hammers would love to finish off their rivals' title challenge and had a decent record against Spurs at Upton Park, winning three of the last five meetings there.

They have struggled to adapt since their move to Stratford and have the fifth-worst home record in the Premier League, winning six matches, drawing four and losing seven.

All those wins have been against teams outside the top nine and they have really struggled at home to the elite teams - losing 2-1 to Chelsea, 2-0 to Manchester United, 4-0 to Manchester City and 5-1 to Arsenal.

Motivation won't be a problem but there is a big gap in quality between the sides. That is reflected by their points tallies of 39 for West Ham and 77 for Spurs.

West Ham's chances are also diminished by injuries to key players. Michail Antonio - their top scorer and the match-winner in last season's 1-0 victory at home to Spurs - is out for the season, and Andy Carroll is unlikely to be anywhere near 100 per cent, having only just returned to training after a groin strain.

The injuries have encouraged Slaven Bilic to be more creative with his team selection.

He switched to a three-man defence for the last home game (a 0-0 draw against Everton) and watched his team play the better football.

Bilic stuck with the same system for last Saturday's creditable 0-0 draw at Stoke but a lack of firepower is an obvious issue for a team who have failed to score in three of their last four matches.

Defensively they have tightened up with central defenders Jose Fonte, Winston Reid and James Collins looking solid.

The brief will be to stay in the game as long as possible and perhaps throw Carroll into the mix in the second half.

And the first part of the plan could be achieved against a Spurs side who have been starting slowly.

Mauricio Pochettino's men were behind after five minutes of their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and needed strong second-half performances to achieve victories away to Crystal Palace (1-0) and at home to Arsenal (2-0).

Their performance at the London Stadium could be a slow burner with Spurs players perhaps needing time to adjust in their first match at the venue.

However, their impressive fitness levels often allow them to come on strong in the later stages of tight matches. They trailed West Ham 2-1 at White Hart Lane after 88 minutes before winning 3-2.

Their match in Stratford may not be quite as dramatic but expect Spurs to do their best work after the interval. 

Draw-Tottenham double result
1pt 7-2 Betfred

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Team news
West Ham
Andy Carroll (groin) and Arthur Masuaku (knock) trained on Thursday and will be considered for selection. Left-back Masuaku could keep his place but Carroll is more likely to be on the bench, having not featured since April 15.

Danny Rose (knee) is unlikely to return and Erik Lamela (hip) and Harry Winks (ankle) are out long-term.

Key stat
Tottenham have led at half-time in just two of their last seven matches.

Tottenham's impressive fitness levels often allow them to come on strong in the later stages of tight matches
E.W. Terms
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