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Spurs seek FA Cup respite from league woes
Published : 17 Mar 2012 07:16:57
Harry Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur side will aim to put aside concerns about their recent Premier League slump when they face Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup sixth round at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Spurs went into the north London derby with Arsenal at the end of February in third place and 10 points clear of their local rivals.
However, in the space of 15 days that gap was reduced to one point with defeat by the Gunners quickly followed by reverses against Manchester United and, most recently, Everton.
With an improving Chelsea sitting three points further adrift in fifth spot, Tottenham's passage into next season's Champions League suddenly looks far less assured.
The visit of Bolton for the Cup clash will provide a break from the increasingly intense battle for a top four finish.
And while the prospect of a place in the semi-finals and a confidence-boosting trip to Wembley is clearly an incentive in itself, Redknapp's team also need a victory to reignite their season after their worst run of an impressive campaign.
"It's important to the whole club," said Spurs forward Rafael van der Vaart. "Winning medals and trophies is the most important thing for a player and you need a little bit of luck to do it.
"Of course you'd love to win league titles and the Champions League, but the FA Cup is also good, every title counts.
"It would mean the world to win the FA Cup. As a club and as a player you want to win titles, you want to win something and the FA Cup is big.
"I'm not from England, but when I was young I always used to watch the FA Cup Final, it's a big day and it would be a dream to play that game," the Dutch international added.
Concern about Redknapp's long term future at the club has dominated recent weeks, with the manager rated the odds on favourite to succeed Fabio Capello as England coach.
Redknapp insists the speculation is not to blame for Spurs' recent dip in form, but another defeat by a struggling Bolton team will only fuel suggestions it is proving a distraction.
However, Wanderers manager Owen Coyle is convinced the two factors are unrelated and maintains Tottenham go into this quarter-final tie as favourites.
"If you analyse the performances -- as we do because we are playing against them -- you realise Tottenham have been playing at a very high level," Coyle said.
"People are talking about how Spurs' recent results haven't been great but you have to look further than that. Their performances recently have been of a very high standard but they haven't carried that little bit of luck.
"Tottenham against Manchester United were outstanding and at Goodison on Saturday there were spells when it was like the Alamo when they were looking to get the equaliser.
"So this is a quality side led by a fantastic manager and we are going to have to be at our best.
"I think they are the favourites for the FA Cup, this is a club that has carried all before them this year."
Bolton head south boosted by last weekend's victory over fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers, a win that moved Coyle's side out of the bottom three.
Premier League survival remains the club's main priority but, after losing 5-0 to Stoke City in last season's semi-finals, Wanderers would relish the opportunity to avenge that humiliation.
"We are under no illusions -- our priority is to remain in the Premier League," Coyle said. "But within that, I also believe that we can continue to progress in the FA Cup."
He added: "We have shown as a club that we love the FA Cup, through history and tradition. Even last year and as disappointing as the semi-final was, we loved that FA Cup run"
Chris Eagles is a doubt for Bolton while Marvin Sordell is Cup-tied.