Reading-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Tottenham Hotspur host Reading at White Hart Lane on New Year's Day, with both teams facing very different challenges in 2013.
Spurs (11-3-6) go into January in fourth position in the league, but will face a strong challenge from the likes of Arsenal and Everton if they are to finish in the Champions League places. The Lilywhites have lost just one of their last eight games, culminating in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday, and Andre Villas-Boas is hopeful that they might have a slight edge in the race for the top four.
"It's very tight in the race for the Champions League spots," said the Portuguese manager. "We can't live on unrealistic situations. Our comfort comes from the fact that we've gone to Goodison, Old Trafford, the Emirates and the Etihad already. We've got to go to Stamford Bridge and Anfield which will be difficult.
"We've cleared a couple of stadiums where our opponents can lose points. Our satisfaction comes from that and the festive period. Apart from the Everton game, December was really good for us."
Reading (2-7-11) picked up just their second win Saturday when they beat West Ham 1-0, but the Royals remain five points from safety.
"I thought it was a really important game," said manager Brian McDermott. "I wouldn't have said that to anyone before the game but my gut feel was it was very important to get a result. We've got that. I might never look it, but I'm very pleased.
"We had to be very resilient as we have done in the last three games. We want to attack and go for games but we've realised what we need to do to get results in this league."
Spurs' injury crisis has eased, with centre-back Younes Kaboul (knee) the only absentee. Benoit Assou-Ekotto is back in full training so may feature for the first time over four months, while centre-backs William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen will be hopeful of returning to the lineup after sitting out the game against Sunderland.
Gareth Bale is suspended for this match for picking up five yellow cards.
Reading have doubts over striker Jason Roberts due to a knee injury, while Alex McCarthy is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Pavel Pogrebnyak will be hopeful of a starting berth after scoring the winning goal against West Ham.
Tottenham have two of the Premier League's top six goal-scorers in Jermain Defoe (10) and Bale (9). AVB's side has already dropped points in five games at White Hart Lane and managed just 14 goals at the ground - both the lowest records in the top seven of the division.
Reading are one of three teams in the Premier League yet to win away from home, and their record of eight defeats on the road is the worst in the division. Only West Ham (5) have managed fewer goals away from home than Reading (7).
Spurs cruised to a 3-1 win when these teams met in September at the Madejski Stadium, and also won 6-4 on Reading's last league visit to White Hart Lane back in 2007.
Updated December 30, 2012