Monday 17 December 2012

Barclays U21s: Group 2 title goes down to the wire

A preview of Monday's action in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League

Tottenham's John Obika scored in the 3-3 draw with Astoin Villa at White Hart Lane

Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa are both hoping to finish on a high as they go head-to-head to finish top of Barclays Under-21 Premier League National Group 2 this evening.

"As far as this game goes, we'll go to Villa, look to win and top the group. It's about finishing this first group stage in the right way"
Chris Ramsey

Having amassed 20 points from 11 matches avoiding defeat will suffice for the north Londoners to finish top of a tight section, in which they have edged to the top of the table from Manchester United on goal difference. A seventh win a row for Villa, however, will ensure they, having beat United last week, finish the qualifying campaign as group winners.

Tottenham had gone unbeaten throughout September, October and November before their five-match winning sequence ended with a 2-1 reverse at Sunderland last time out.

Having scored 35 goals in their last nine matches Spurs will be confident of finishing with a flourish at Villa Park, where entry is free for season-ticket holders upon presentation of a valid Season Card, £1 for under-16s and £2 for general admission.

"We're sitting top of the league having played the style of football we want to play," Tottenham's senior professional phase coach Chris Ramsey told the club’s official website. "We've also seen players impress and get an opportunity with the first team and that's obviously the main role of the development squad, so it's worked out well.

"We'll go to Villa, look to win and look to top the group. It's all about finishing this first group stage in the right way."

Hope for Southampton

A defeat for Villa would open the door for Southampton and Chelsea to qualify for the Elite Group Stage next year as the best third-place qualifying spot. Chelsea have finished their Group 3 fixtures and must hope that as well as Villa losing, Southampton fail to beat Newcastle United. A draw for Gordan Cowans’ side combined with a Saints win would mean the final place in the Elite Group Stage determined by goal difference in Group 2, with Villa at present four goals better off than Martin Hunter's charges.

Southampton have struggled for consistency this season but will hope to have found form at the right time having produced two wins from their last four outings.  

"We just need to beat Newcastle and see what happens"
Martin Hunter

The Magpies are without a win in four sorties but will be buoyed by the return of striker Adam Campbell for the first time since October, while midfielders Romain Amalfitano, Medhi Abeid and Curtis Good are also available.

For Saints’ last game, a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on 3 December, Hunter selected Tadanari Lee, Emmanuel Mayuka and James Ward-Prowse in his starting XI and named Jonathan Forte on the bench.

The likes of Artur Boruc, Danny Butterfield, Ryan Dickson, Jack Cork and Steve De Ridder have also played in under-21 fixtures this season, so fans who make the trip to Eastleigh, where entry costs £5 for adults and £3 concessions, may also get the chance to see a selection of first-team regulars in action.

 “We know exactly what we’ve got to do,” Hunter told  Southampton’s official website. “Whoever wins the other game will finish top of the group, so there are two very important games coming up. 

“We just need to beat Newcastle and see what happens. Our whole focus is on beating them, and we’ll worry about the permutations afterwards.”

Hammers Kane-d by Norwich

Norwich City concluded their campaign with a 3-1 victory against Group 1 winners West Ham United thanks to a double strike by Harry Kane.

The 19-year-old, who is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, put Norwich ahead on 25 minutes when he finished off a sweeping move involving Josh Murphy and Jamar Loza and Kane was also upended in the second half, enabling Ozumide Durojaiye to double the lead from the penalty spot.

West Ham, for whom Jack Collison made a return to midfield from long-term injury, passed up the chance to pull a goal back when Remi Matthews saved Jordan Spence's spot-kick and within a minute Kane had made it 3-0. The Hammers reduced the arrears through Nathan mavial's free-kick with five minutes remining.

Also in Group 3 on Monday sixth-placed Fulham took on bottom side manchester City at Platt Lane.

Barclays Under-21 Premier League result

Monday, 17 December, 2012

Group 1
Norwich City 3-1 West Ham United

Barclays Under-21 Premier League fixtures

Group 2
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur, Villa Park, 19:00
Southampton v Newcastle United, Eastleigh FC, 19:00

Group 3
Manchester City v Fulham, Edgeley Park, 14:00

For all the fixtures and the latest league tables, click here

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL

Key Points

  • Aston Villa host Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park tonight
  • Winners will finish qualifying campaign as Group 2 victors
  • Southampton could also reach Elite Group Stage depending on results

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