Striking similarities at Spurs and Villa but Defoe has edge

  • @stevetongue

At White Hart Lane today, every bit as much as at Newcastle, the emphasis will be on strikers; in this case including the naming of the teams. Tottenham's season has improved from stuttering beginnings since Jermain Defoe has been used on his own with Clint Dempsey in the line of three behind him. This has coincided with an injury to Emmanuel Adebayor, who ought logically to form half of an ideal long-and-short striking partnership with Defoe but can hardly expect to walk straight back into a team who have just won away to Manchester United.

In the visitors' dressing-room, meanwhile, Aston Villa's Darren Bent will be desperate for the opportunity to prove to followers of both clubs that he is worth more than the substitute's role assigned for last weekend's big derby with West Bromwich Albion. Bent must feel he made his point in earning one for Villa when he replaced the misfiring new recruit Christian Benteke and scored the equalising goal.

In two years at Tottenham, burdened perhaps by a price tag of £16 million as a replacement for the popular Defoe (who had moved to Portsmouth), Bent was never able to convince the demanding home crowd. Yet the statistics reveal a goal from every two starts in a Spurs shirt, as they have done from his earliest days at Ipswich Town. His tally now is 175 in 345 starts: impressive figures, although still surpassed by Defoe's 199 in 341.

The two players are similar too in being direct runners who want the ball played behind defenders. They would not, therefore, make a partnership and have virtually never done so for England, ending up as long-standing rivals. Defoe has been the more favoured since winning selection for the 2010 World Cup, a decision that left Bent bitterly disappointed.

Adebayor is not as prolific as either, although his 17 League goals on loan at Tottenham last season endeared him to the home support. He has been taking his comeback slowly, and praising Defoe, whom under the present 4-2-3-1 system he will have to demote to gain a regular place. "I have a huge respect for Jermain Defoe and he knows that already. I've told him that if I can come back and make him the top goalscorer in the League then I am happy to do that. I am pleased and happy for him; if I can help him score more goals then it would be my pleasure. I am not a selfish player, I want to share, and hopefully he will be the man who will score the goals to give us victory over Aston Villa."

For himself, a cameo today should count as a bonus. "After this game we have the international break when I am going to go and play for my country. I think I need two more games to be fine and hopefully after the internationals I will be. The season started six or seven weeks ago but for me it is like a new start."

Bent, on the other hand, is counting on his little break having lasted no longer than the 70 minutes he sat stewing on the bench last Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa is today, kick-off 3pm