It's been a difficult couple of weeks for everyone connected to Tottenham Hotspur. The 5-2 defeat to Arsenal in the North London derby was unexpected, and was followed by a 3-1 loss to Manchester United in a game that saw Spurs dominate without scoring. Constant reports linking manager Harry Redknapp to the vacant England manager's job can't have helped, but apart from those two defeats this season has been a brilliant one. A match against lower-league Stevenage tonight at home is just what is needed.
The atmosphere at White Hart Lane this year has been electric. Spurs have played fine attacking football in front of a noisy crowd and have only lost at home to the two teams above them in the division. Currently in third place on 53 points, they need to show no mercy in tonight's game and carry that form into the weekend when they face a testing trip to Everton.
The good news for Spurs fans is that two of their most important players are available after missing the game against Manchester United. Welsh prodigy Gareth Bale has been one of the league's standout performers this season. After spending most of his career at left-back or left-midfield, he has played on the right and in the centre this season with great results. It took him 42 games to score 11 goals last season, but he already has 10 this season from 27 games and has been watched by Barcelona on a number of occasions.
Scott Parker is the second player to return. His form this season has been equally brilliant. After years of moving for club to club he has found his home at Spurs. A classic holding midfield player, his energetic tackling and simple passing has been a highlight of Tottenham's football and he was rewarded for this with the England captaincy last week against Holland.
After playing so well in the first match, Stevenage have been in poor form in the league losing two and drawing two. Yet it would be dangerous to write them off. The FA Cup has a history of producing upsets, and Stevenage are a hard-working team who rely on a physical and disciplined approach. Spurs will need to break them down and score early, get the supporters singing and find their confidence for the battle to remain in the top four and qualify for next season's Champions League.