Tranmere v Tottenham: No easy Rovers ride for Spurs

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THE always-excellent James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Friday night's FA Cup 3rd Round showdown between Tranmere and Tottenham at Prenton Park.

Tranmere v Tottenham | Friday 4th January 2018, 19:45 | BT Sport

1991 was the last time Tottenham lifted the FA Cup, and their latest queue to secure a ninth title in this competition begins in Birkenhead on Friday night. They made it all the way to the semi-final last season, but squandered an early lead to lose 2-1 to Manchester United.

The form guide certainly favours Spurs going into this encounter. The only teams to defeat them this season are Watford, Liverpool, Inter, Barcelona, Manchester City, Arsenal and most recently Wolves. Clearly it takes a good team to beat Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

Micky Mellon is the man looking to produce a masterplan to knock Spurs out in the 3rd Round. Tranmere are having a decent crack at life back in the EFL after winning promotion out of the National League last season. Rovers are only three points outside the play-off positions at just over the halfway point in the campaign. Only four other sides at that level have lost fewer games than Mellon’s men, so they’ll be looking to give their Premier League opponents a scare or two on Friday.

Team news clearly will have a major impact on how strongly Spurs are to be fancied here. However, I think the likelihood is that most teams in the Premier League will elect to rotate as much as they can in this round. Those in the top flight are quick to highlight the hectic schedule over the Christmas and New Year period, and they’ll look to make the most of their resources to rest key men for when they return to action after the weekend.

For Spurs, they have a big EFL Cup semi-final first leg clash with Chelsea to come early next week. This is then quickly followed by Manchester United in the Premier League at Wembley. Pochettino will look to rotate his team here, but expect a few big guns to be on the bench.

Spurs do tend to take this competition seriously, and they’re desperate to win it overall. Pochettino will be more than aware that they needed replays against both Newport County and Rochdale in the competition last season. Perhaps they won’t make the same mistakes this time around.

Of course, there are two teams taking the field in this game and a case has to be made for Tranmere. They will take heart from the fact Tottenham had some issues over lower leagues sides in this competition last season.

One thing Tranmere have done especially well this season is made their home base something of a fortress, certainly in more recent times. They’ve lost just the once in their last eleven at home, which came against the Manchester City Under-21 side in the Checkatrade Trophy. Tranmere do have something of a history in this tournament, too. In the early ‘noughties’, they reached the quarter-final stage on three occasions, whilst also reaching the League Cup Final in 2000 as well.

Finding a good betting angle into this game is certainly a challenge. Low stakes are most definitely advised, especially when one of the sides is a 2/9 favourite (Spurs if you was wondering).

With Spurs likely to make a few changes here, it could be that they take a little time to really get into their stride. They have been scoring goals for fun recently, and you have to go all the way back to late October for the last time they failed to score in a game, and that was at home to Manchester City, and they deserve something from that encounter. What was telling in their exploits in the FA Cup last season when facing Newport and Rochdale away was that they failed to score in the first half of those matches, too.

A tentative play is therefore made on the Half Time Draw. This is priced at 193/100 (Marathon). Whilst Spurs could easily blow out of the traps in this one and make this selection look somewhat silly, it is always good to back the underdog on occasions like this, as it is really the only chance you’ve got of making any meaningful profit.

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Tranmere v Tottenham – Half Time Draw (193/100 Marathon)

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