Tottenham preview

Barely three months after this defeat to Tottenham ended hopes of Champions League qualification, we kick off the new season with a trip to the side that delivered that fatal blow, but this time there is expectation, not merely hope that is in the air.

Another summer of heavy investment means that 2010/11 must yield a return of Champions League football. No ifs. No buts. Now possessing arguably the deepest squad in the Premier League means there is no margin for error and improvement on fifth place in 2009/10 is now a necessity.

And Tottenham is a good place to start. Foes of late, our return from games with them is nothing short of woeful (eleven defeats from the past twelve). But as I wrote in the season preview, a return of zero points from fixtures with the likes of Tottenham cannot happen if there are hopes of genuine success.

That said, opening day cannot be a true barometer of how the season will unfold. Either way - defeat or victory - will be magnified in the press and on the blogs come Sunday morning. There are fine margins between success and failure as we will no doubt find out throughout the season.

I'm expecting Roberto Mancini to adopt a fairly cautious approach to the game (think tail end of last season as a benchmark), lining up with a likely 4-5-1 with three central midfielders and two wide men supporting Carlos Tevez.

The Italian has decisions to make in terms of team selection but I'd anticipate Jerome Boateng and Alexsandar Kolarov to make their debuts in the full-back positions either side of Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure. Yaya Toure will undoubtedly come into the midfield alongside Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry whilst I agree with Jack that Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson get the nod out wide. The decision as to who plays in goal will also be an interesting one to watch out for of course.

However, Mancini is not noted for his predictable line-ups so we could see any one of a number of formations and selections but I do think David Silva will start from the bench given his limited pre-season and midweek travel with the Spanish national side.

For two sides with an abundance of attacking talent I'm anticipating a tense affair however, with neither side risking too much. Expect a competent start but not without one or two worries along the way. I'll take a 1-1 draw that we perhaps look back on and think it could have been more.

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