Itâ€™s Fratton Park on Saturday and itâ€™s third versus bottom. Last yearâ€™s corresponding fixture also featured the bottom place side but that, of course, was us. So in some ways this fixture is a stark reminder of just how much has changed in the year since Harry jumped ship from Pompey and, firstly through what appeared to be just force of personality and then consequently the power of the purse, turn us into a top six challenging team.
The focus will be on our manager returning to his former club but both sides are scattered with players doing the same thing. For our part Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar will be on familiar ground whilst in the home team Younes Kaboul & Kevin Prince Boateng may feel they have something to prove and Michael Brown something to kick. Jamie Oâ€™Hara sits this one out under the daft Premier League rules about loanees playing against their â€˜realâ€™ clubs.
Itâ€™s been all change at Portsmouth over the summer which is one of the reasons theyâ€™ve made such a slow start. Their team is mostly unrecognisable from that that finished last season. Last time out they notched their first points of the season with a win at Wolves. This followed good but ultimately unsuccessful performances against Bolton and Everton at home so weâ€™re not playing a team at its lowest ebb by any means, more like a team that has rediscovered a modicum of belief in themselves.
Closer to home, we could be in about the healthiest position injurywise weâ€™ve been for a long time with all of Woodgate, King and Dawson apparently ready to leap off the physioâ€™s couch and into action. Hopefully this means the end of the Huddlestone at centre half experiment for the time being at least. The option to move Big Tom back into midfield will be welcomed by Redknapp as Wilson Palacios will be missing. His enforced absence due to being ordered to party like heâ€™s never partied before by the Honduran government is one of the more bizarre excuses for missing a game.
Otherwise, given the still missing and much missed Luka Modric and barring any international injuries, Iâ€™d suggest the team almost picks itself with Defoe returning up front and Keane getting the nod over Crouch. The midfield will be Kranjcar, Jenas, Lennon and the aforementioned Huddlestone.
The ref is scheduled to be Phil Dowd, the object of Rafaâ€™s scorn after the opening day fixture at WHL. Dowd also reffed us at Preston.
Last yearâ€™s fixture was won with goals from Defoe and Crouch, itâ€™ll be a combative game but thereâ€™s no reason to think that the same wonâ€™t happen this time out.
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