Berbatov in shop window as Spurs seek to plug gaps

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The Independent Football

If the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy, is adamant in his wish to hang on to Dimitar Berbatov, he might have preferred a lower-profile start to 2008 than the one awaiting Juande Ramos' side today.

Judged by the breathless recent standards of the two sides, Spurs' trip to Aston Villa makes an abacus as essential a part of the spectator's match-day kit as those new Christmas gloves. The fact the game goes out live on tea-time TV further exposes the talents of the brilliant Bulgarian to the eyes of the Manchester Uniteds, Chelseas and Real Madrids, which is less than cheery news to Levy or anyone else intent on keeping him at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham and their fans are still digesting the comments of the agent Emil Dantchev, who insists the door or should that now be window? is open to any interested bigger clubs who match his client's ambition, class and trophy-winning potential. Ouch!

We will learn from the chants of visiting fans later whether the halo Berbatov wore after scoring four times against Reading on Saturday has slipped. And we will know by 7.15pm whether the confident predictions of a Villa Park goal-fest have gone down as the first "curse of the commentator" moment of the year.

It appears surprising that Villa's win at Wigan Athletic was their first in six games, especially as they made their manager Martin O'Neill so proud with their wonderful spirit in adversity at Chelsea on Boxing Day. That 4-4 draw was hailed as the match of the season but the cockerel is no doubt crowing that it was not even the match of the week, given how Spurs subsequently came back from trailing three times to beat Reading 6-4.

While Villa are making definite but gradual progress, fired by the exciting young Englishmen Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, Tottenham are flying after their early-season nosedive. The Reading game produced six goals in 14 second-half minutes and Spurs have scored 11 times in the last 153 minutes' playing time; once more than Derby County have managed in 20 games.

Who would fancy stepping into the firing line this teatime? Well, Curtis Davies is desperate to keep Zat Knight on the sidelines, having been linked with Martin Jol's Spurs last season and then made an impressive, albeit belated, first League start for Villa at the weekend. But the dizzy talk among the masses cuts little ice with his team-mate Wilfred Bouma.

"To draw 4-4, as we also did this season at Spurs after leading 4-1, is good for the audience," the Dutchman said. "But I would rather win 1-0. Spurs have real dangers and pace but we have goals all through our team as well, so there's nothing to be afraid of. We have a lot of self-belief."

Villa might need it. For all the Berbatovmania, his partner Robbie Keane was the Premier League's leading scorer in 2007 with 19 goals. And if only he could convert penalties...

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