The Opposition: Portsmouth

Last updated : 22 November 2008 By myPompey

Difficult one right now given the recent changes in management. Adams is asserting his style which is buoyant and up tempo. Some would say he inherited a team which was poorly motivated and unbalanced due to us having to sell Muntari and Mendes during the summer.

Despite many believing that Redknapp was a great motivator, he motivated very much at the player level. So there will be many plaudits for his man-management but not so many for what he manages to do for the team. For every player blabbing on to the press about how great Redknapp is, you'll find another one or two in the team disgruntled at their treatment.

Adams seems a lot more balanced in that respect. Whereas Redknapp was almost bigoted in wanting to play his favourites, Adams is much more likely to think of the team first. As such both Crouch and Defoe are now regular candidates for substitution if the match isn't going well. The aged but still breathtakingly brilliant Kanu is the usual replacement.

Predicting our formation for this weekend will be difficult, not least because the core of our midfield in the form of Diarra and Kranjcar are carrying injuries and are unlikely to play. Campbell too.

We have been experimenting with 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 although 4-4-2 is the default formation. What you will not see this weekend is 4-5-1. This is now reserved for tough away matches even though it enabled us to win many on the road last season. Redknapp set in stone a reliance on Crouch and Defoe and immaterial of how defence and midfield are structured, these two will start up front.

Of more interest is how we line up in midfield. We may well string 5 across the centre with the 'Wardrobe' Diop breaking up your attacks and Johnson and Belhadj playing as wingbacks.

On a good day Pompey are a match for anyone. Put this down to the long list of internationals in the team. We have been spoilt of late seeing James, Johnson, Defoe and Crouch being selected for England. Based on this year's form, Campbell should be there too. This core, coupled with players like Distin, Diarra, Kranjcar, Belhadj, Utaka and Kanu, can tear opponents apart, although on the other hand as we demonstrated in the Cup run last year we can grind out 1-0 wins week after week too.

The strengths start at the back. If we don't concede we invariably win. Our goals tend not to be long drawn out affairs. James will normally distribute with the ball making its way to the wing before being thumped in by Defoe or Crouch.

Johnson, Belhadj, Traore and Utaka are all superb athletes and coupled with the front two form one of the best attacks in the country. Hull will need to be on their game this week and should be wary of conceding early as Fratton Park can be very intimidating when the team is up front and dictating play.

If we had to single out our biggest threat it would be Defoe. I have no reservation in saying he is the best penalty box striker in the league. If you have seen any of his recent goals they typically involve Defoe being chased around the box by 3 or 4 defenders before he slams it past the keeper.

Attitude and fatigue. With a smallish squad and a UEFA Cup campaign to negotiate we can be stretched, no better demonstrated than the 6-0 thrashing against Man City earlier in the season. We are also short in central midfield even before Diarra picked up an injury. Attitude can be a problem too. Recent media speculation about finances not being helped by rumour that Redknapp is planning to asset strip the club he 'loved' has left some of the more fragile players struggling for form.

We also are struggling to score from midfield with 10 of our 13 goals coming from Defoe and Crouch. If you manage to stop these guys from scoring you stand a good chance.

Campbell, Diarra and Kranjcar all likely to be out due to injury.

Player by Player
Given that Adams is still experimenting and finding his feet, the only guaranteed starters in known positions will be James, Crouch and Defoe. Instead of trying to second guess the starting formation (3-5-2 or 4-4-2) I will list the players in contention to start.

James: The best English keeper by far. Getting on in years and more consistent than he was but he still has us biting our nails. He will either be man of the match or the subject of chuckles by neutrals on the MOTD sofa.

Pamerot: Makes Arnie look a touch anorexic and despite his size is very quick over 10 yards even if he can be made to look slow against faster players on the flanks. One of Pompey's unsung heroes.

Distin: The best French defender by miles. It must be politics keeping him out of the French team because it's not ability. Probably the most athletic big man on the pitch this Saturday.

Kaboul: Chastised by the press for being rubbish and out of favour with the Iberian Dietician at Spurs, he has come into his own at Pompey. Another superb athlete and improving no doubt due to the defensive coaching abilities of Tony Adams.

Wing Backs
Belhadj: Find of the season for us. Quicker than quick and a thumping shot. Can also land the ball on a sixpence from the wing.

Johnson: He's put his childish pranks behind him and should be playing wing back for England on a regular basis were it not for Capello's defensive stance. Capable of running the wing or cutting across to the box and troubling keepers with 20 yarders. And to boot he's a good defender too. Another of Pompey's jewels.

Traore: Playing on the left and linking up with the advancing belhadj. Very fast, Very fit but yet to hit the net for us since joining from Arsenal on loan.

Davis: A good solid if unexciting player. A real grafter that makes up in effort what he lacks in skill.

Diop: Awesome player when playing to his strengths. Prompted Reading to moan that they gave up trying to win the ball in the air last year during their 7-4 thrashing. Create lots of chances too but has never score for us. Missed a sitter at Anfield. He'll score this week!

Utaka: Brilliant and baffling in equal amounts. Normally playing wide on the right. If he plays and has a good day he will tear you apart. If he doesn't have a good day (50/50) then listen out for the boos.

Crouch: Some of the Fratton Faithful feel he is too specialized for a small squad like Pompey's. He has scored a couple of cracking goals this year but seems at odds with a team known for its strength and speed. In saying that he can turn a match with an aerial layoff or the overhead kick.

Defoe: If he were 4 inches taller he'd be the best striker in the world. As it is we have to settle for him being the most dangerous long range poacher. Give him the ball anywhere in the area and watch out!

Kanu: There are only two Pompey players that have me rewinding the Sky box time and time again. One is Diarra (injured). The other Kanu. Brilliant. His skill defies logic. Scored both our goals in the FA Cup Semi Final and Final last year. You may see him replace Crouch if things aren't going to plan on Saturday. If he does play feast your eyes on probably the best controller of a ball in the Premier League today.

Courtesy of mypompey