x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Croatian pair plotting Spurs' path to glory

Modric and Kranjcar present a twin threat to Fulham in replay as Tottenham look to the prospect of winning a ninth FA Cup title.

Throughout Saturday's 2-1 victory at Stoke City there were chants of "Spurs are on their way to Wembley". The words were made famous 29 years ago with a catchy pop song to mark Tottenham's 1981 FA Cup final appearance. Entitled "Ossie's Dream", it paid homage to Osvaldo Ardiles, their hero, although it was Ricky Villa, his Argentine midfield teammate, whose mazy run and finish - one of the greatest FA Cup goals of all-time - sealed a thrilling final replay against Manchester City.

The side now have a couple of Croatians in Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar who provide the magic in midfield. They have made the prospect of winning a ninth FA Cup a realistic one as they prepare to host Fulham in their quarter final replay at White Hart Lane tonight. Following his performances at Euro 2008, Tottenham knew what Modric could offer. A season in England has helped him adapt and toughen up to cope with the physical rigours of the Premier League.

His countryman, Kranjcar, first joined Portsmouth in 2006. Ridiculed for being overweight, the son of Zlatko Kranjcar, the former Croatia and Al Shaab coach, the schemer took time to settle. But he flourished at Fratton Park under Harry Redknapp and joined the manager at Spurs when the chance arose at the start of this season. "Some of his performances have been unbelievable," said Redknapp, who will strengthen his midfield next season with the signing of Sandro from Inter Milan, it was announced yesterday.

"He was brought up in a football family so Niko knows the game. "When I signed him for Portsmouth, I asked Slaven Bilic [the Croatia coach] about him and he said he was one of the most talented players anywhere. He said, 'Come here and see Luka too', and what a fantastic footballer. "It's a country that produces great technical players; Robert Prosinecki and Davor Suker. It produces that type of players. They are skilful, but great professionals, too.

"They work hard and never give you a problem." In this campaign, they have certainly justified Redknapp's faith and praise. Modric has come back strongly from a broken leg he suffered in August, while Kranjcar has provided consistency and class across the midfield as injuries limited Redknapp's options. His winner against Stoke, his seventh goal of the season, kept Spurs in the hunt for the coveted fourth Champions League spot. Fulham should beware of this twin threat.

After their exploits in the Europa League, knocking out Shakhtar Donetsk and, memorably, Juventus, Fulham have established their own cup pedigree. But Roy Hodgson, the manager, does not want lows to follow such highs. "Whatever happens now, it will be results that condition people's judgement on us," he said. "If we have a good end to the season and win some more games, people will say they put the Juventus game behind them.

"If we don't they will say it was the Juventus game that ruined them. That's football." The Cottagers have yet to score a goal in three games with Spurs this season. The initial cup tie finished goalless, as did their match on Boxing Day. However, Tottenham won the league game at White Hart Lane in January 2-0. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae Spurs v Fulham, 11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 & +5