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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Tottenham

Sunderland’s defence will focus on opposition midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart when they host Tottenham in the English Premier League.

The match at the Stadium of Light on Saturday will be Van der Vaart’s fifth consecutive start for Spurs.

With him in the team, they have claimed two wins, including an FA Cup quarter-final victory over Bolton, and two draws in the previous four games.

The Dutchman scored the opener in Tottenham’s 3-1 victory against Swansea last Sunday, as well as hitting the corner for Emmanuel Adebayor’s first goal.

He also scored a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Stoke that started Tottenham’s unbeaten run.

But prior to those matches, the Dutchman failed to start in seven straight games in which his side won twice, drew twice and lost three times.

Van der Vaart is a crucial player for Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham team and will be a key worry for Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, whose side are experiencing defensive problems.

Sunderland have leaked five goals in their past two games, coinciding with John O’Shea’s absence through injury.

The Irish defender is expected to be back against Tottenham.

O’Neill must be frustrated after his side failed to hold onto a 3-1 lead against Manchester City last week, conceding twice in the last five minutes to draw 3-3.

Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner was on target against City and is in rich form, having hit the back of the net four times in the past five league games.

Bendtner is equal top scorer for Sunderland with seven goals this season, alongside Stephane Sessegnon and Sebastian Larsson, who scored both of the other two goals against City.

Sunderland are ninth in the league standings on 41 points, and have little to play for throughout the rest of the season.

They have no real chance of reaching a European qualifying spot in the league, are effectively safe from relegation, and they have been eliminated from the FA Cup.

Redknapp will hope Sunderland are already thinking about their post-season holidays on Saturday, because fourth-placed Tottenham have a huge chance to replace Arsenal in third spot, with both sides going into the weekend’s fixtures on 58 points.

If Tottenham beat Sunderland and Arsenal fail to win against second-placed Manchester City on Monday, Redknapp’s side will move back above their London rivals.

Thu 5 April, 2012
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