After two rather fortuitous wins, Spurs host Stoke City this weekend.
It’s fair to say Stoke aren’t Tottenham’s favourite opponents. For a start there’s Charlie Adam, who has a habit of putting Spurs players in the treatment room. Then there’s last season’s clash at the Britannia Stadium, which saw Danny Rose bullied by Stoke’s players and fans.
They are a team forged in the image of Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes, two of the harder, more prickly characters in the game.
Stoke currently sit 13th, on 10 points, coming off an exciting 2-2 draw with high flying West Ham. They are just 2 points and 5 places below Spurs.
Hughes favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, which seems to be the default setup in the division at the moment.
The Welshman has made Stoke easier on the eye, introducing skilful players like Victor Moses, Marko Arnautović and former Barcelona starlet, Bojan. They are now pretty average when it comes to passing success and possession (11th and 9th in the league respectively).
However, they still have Tony Pulis’ mark on the team, topping the division in aerial duels won by a fair distance (27.8 per game, compared to next best Leicester on 22.1).
Stoke have committed more fouls than any team apart from Crystal Palace, Pulis’ other erstwhile charges.
Spurs are favourites at 1.73, Stoke are out at 5.9, while the draw is 3.9
Walker and Bentaleb are still missing. Lennon and Adebayor were unavailable in midweek but should return.
Stoke have Odemwingie out long term with a serious knee injury and Whelan with a broken leg. Robert Huth is also unavailable, while Arnautovic should make it, despite a problem with his hand.
My main feelings on the team selection can be summed up in two words – Harry Kane.
He should start at number 9 after some very positive contributions in recent weeks. It could be argued he is more suited to the number 10 role but Spurs had a better balance as a team with him up top in the first half against Asteras. When he moved back, we surrendered control of midfield.
I would also like to see one of our wingers deployed as a natural wide man. In recent games we have lacked width and Townsend’s two assists on Thursday showed the advantage of running at the opposition out wide.
Stoke under Hughes are dangerous on the counter attack and, after recent struggles, it will be interesting to see how our defence copes.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 – Stoke City 1
A narrow Spurs win but an improved performance.
Are you confident ahead of Spurs clash with Stoke City? Let me know in the comments below.