Stoke - Tottenham Preview: Visitors face must-win clash to keep top-four bid alive
Andre Villas-Boas will look to keep on the coat-tails of Arsenal and Chelsea with a victory against a Potters side with little left to play for after all-but clinching safety
By Alex Ward
Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Shotton
Nzonzi, Adam, Whitehead
Walters, Crouch, Jerome
Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto
Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson
Stoke enter Sunday’s clash in fine spirits after Wigan’s 3-2 defeat to Swansea all-but cemented the Potters' place in the Premier League next season.
The scene at the Britannia, however, is not as rosy as would be expected. The rising tide of frustration directed at manager Tony Pulis over his style of play and the club’s perceived stagnation has been an enduring presence towards the end of the season, and Pulis will be out to silence his critics come Sunday with a competitive performance.
He could be without the services of Mark Wilson for the clash after the defender was withdrawn with a hamstring injury during his last last outing at Sunderland.
Andy Wilkinson and Glenn Whelan were both expected to return to the fray during that match, but their absence at the Stadium of Light has raised concerns of that the pair are suffering with more serious injuries than initially diagnosed.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have undoubtedly entered the business end of their season as they vie for Champions League qualification with Chelsea and arch-rivals Arsenal.
A draw at Stamford Bridge kept them firmly in the running, but Villas Boas will have no interest in returning from Sunday’s match without all three points as his side sit one point behind Arsenal and a distant three behind Chelsea with just two games remaining.
Moussa Dembele is expected to return to action after recovering from an injury picked up against Southampton last weekend, but will be subjected to a late fitness test before the team travels up north.
A vital late equaliser against Chelsea could earn a place in the starting XI for Gylfi Sigurdsson, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor’s man-of-the-match showing at Stamford Bridge will likely see him lead the Tottenham line once more.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Stoke are unbeaten in their last three Premier League clashes against Tottenham, with one win and two draws.
- The Potters have hit the target fewer times than any other side this season (110).
- Stoke need just one point to guarantee mathematical safety.
- The last time Tottenham lost a game to a side sitting in the bottom half of the table was in November, during a 1-0 shock home defeat to Wigan.
- Apart from Aston Villa (13), Spurs have scored more goals (12) over the past six games than any other club in the Premier League.
- Tottenham are undefeated in nine of their last ten away matches in the top-flight.
- Andre Villas Boas’ (pictured right) two previous meetings against the Potters, with both Chelsea and at Tottenham, have ended goalless.
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Top 3 Predictions
Stoke City 0-2 Tottenham
- 15.22 %
Stoke City 1-1 Tottenham
- 14.57 %
Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham
- 12.88 %
|Premier League (EPL)||29 Dec 2013||Tottenham 3 - Stoke City 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||12 May 2013||Stoke City 1 - Tottenham 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||22 Dec 2012||Tottenham 0 - Stoke City 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||21 Mar 2012||Tottenham 1 - Stoke City 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||11 Dec 2011||Stoke City 2 - Tottenham 1|
|8 Mar 2014||Norwich City 1 - Stoke City 1||EPL|
|1 Mar 2014||Stoke City 1 - Arsenal FC 0||EPL|
|22 Feb 2014||Manchester City 1 - Stoke City 0||EPL|
|12 Feb 2014||Stoke City 1 - Swansea City 1||EPL|
|8 Feb 2014||Southampton 2 - Stoke City 2||EPL|
With 11 goals to his name so far this term, the much-maligned Walters has unexpectedly become the primary source of Stoke’s goals this season. Four ahead of next top-scorer Peter Crouch, the Ireland international has netted twice in his last three outings, but will nonetheless be up against it given the undeniable quality of Spurs’ centre-back partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson.
Given the increasing banality of Gareth Bale’s genius, it seems logical to cast the spotlight on another of Tottenham’s attacking outlets. With the Stoke mould primarily cast in strength and physicality, the winger’s pace and driving sorties down the flanks are likely to cause all manner of headaches for the Potters rearguard.
Despite Stoke’s impressive record against Tottenham in recent outings, what’s at stake for the visitors will most likely determine the outcome of Sunday’s clash. Moreover, the technical superiority of the Spurs’ ranks serves only to compound the struggle that Stoke are expected to endure at the weekend.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed