West Ham United-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
LONDON (SE) - There will be more than local bragging rights at stake when Tottenham Hotspur host West Ham United in a London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon.
West Ham (5-4-3) haven't tasted victory in any of their last 11 visits to the Lane, but go into Sunday's game two points clear of Spurs after enjoying a great return to Premier League action. In contrast, a much-changed Tottenham (5-5-2) have lost three on the trot in the league ahead of this weekend's crunch match.
"Local derbies are always very special, and fans and players closely associated with West Ham are really attracted to those type of fixtures," said West Ham manager Sam Allardyce in his pre-match press conference. "Our hope is to take our game to Tottenham and cause them a few problems.
"The encouraging thing for us is that it is not long since Wigan won there. It is has not been the big fortress Tottenham fans might have expected."
Spurs have lost four of their last five in the league and have been beaten five times already. Not until February of last season were the Lilywhites beaten five times, while the 5-2 defeat to Arsenal last weekend made Tottenham the only team in the top half with a negative goal difference.
However, a 0-0 draw at Lazio on Thursday night gives the north London club a strong chance of progressing in the Europa League, and Gareth Bale, who wore the captain's armband in Rome, hopes the team will take confidence from the result.
"It was great to be captain, a real honour and good that we worked hard as a team and picked up a well-earned draw," said Bale on the club's official website. "We had a couple of chances in the first half but didn't get that bit of luck we needed.
"We have to bounce back in the Premier League," added the Welsh winger. "Hopefully we can get a positive result and that will put us right back in contention. We know it will be difficult, West Ham are on a good run at the moment but we're a good enough team to get a result and get our season back on track."
Tottenham are without Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul and Scott Parker, while Emmanuel Adebayor is suspended following a red card in the loss to the Gunners. West Ham have doubts over Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun, while Ricardo Vaz Te and Jack Collison are out.
West Ham have 19 points after 12 games on their Premier League return. It took the Hammers until New Year's Day to reach the same tally during their last Premier League season (2010-11). Defensively, Allardyce's side have been strong, with only Arsenal conceding fewer road goals than West Ham's six.
However, the visitors' focal point of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan have a poor record against Spurs. Carroll has never scored in six appearances against Spurs - and has just six goals in total in 52 league games since leaving Newcastle - while Nolan has bagged just a single goal in the last 11 appearances against Tottenham.
The last time these two teams met in the league was in the 2010-11 season, when West Ham took four points off their local rivals - a 1-0 win at Upton Park and a scoreless draw at White Hart Lane.