Tottenham - Stoke Preview: Spurs hope to break down Pulis' defensive specialists
The hosts have won four of their last five but face sturdy opposition in a side that has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League and collected eight clean sheets
By Tim Poole
Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton
Lennon, Sandro, Dembele, Bale
Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson
Adam, Whelan, N'zonzi, Etherington
Coming off the back of a hard-fought win against Swansea last weekend, Tottenham head into Saturday's clash with a number of key players returning from injury.
Andre Villas-Boas is still without defender Younes Kaboul (knee) but could have both Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto sharp enough to start, with the pair having recently returned to first-team training.
Michael Dawson and Scott Parker are also expected to be fit but may be restricted to substitutes' roles, while Hugo Lloris looks set to continue in goal over Brad Friedel.
Up front, Villas-Boas is likely to continue with both Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe.
The visitors, meanwhile, have injury concerns in the form of Rory Delap (hernia), Marc Wilson (broken leg) and Michael Owen (hamstring).
Elsewhere, Tony Pulis is likely to stick with the same back four that started against Everton and has been a source of strength for the Potters all season.
Pulis' striker choices are less certain, however, with Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones - who scored his first goal in 28 Premier League games last week - also pushing for a starting berth.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- If every Premier League match this season finished after 80 minutes, Tottenham would currently be top of the table. The north London outfit have conceded 10 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches - the joint-worst tally in the league.
- Spurs have won their last three home matches, as well as four of their last five Premier League fixtures overall. They are 12/1 to win 3-1 with bet365.
- Four of Tottenham's players have contributed three Premier League assists so far this season: Clint Dempsey, Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele and Tom Huddlestone.
- Spurs have a favourable head-to-head record against Stoke, having beaten the Potters four times and lost on only three occasions, with the sides sharing the points once in eight fixtures.
- Stoke have amassed a total of eight clean sheets so far this season - the highest tally in the Premier League. The Potters have also conceded the fewest goals in the division: 13.
- The Potters are currently on a seven-match unbeaten run, with their last defeat coming at the hands of Chris Hughton's Norwich in early November.
- Stoke have drawn nine times this season, more than half of their games. Pulis' men top the table in this regard once again, although the record is shared with Everton.
- Three sides hold the joint-lowest total for goals scored this season: Aston Villa, QPR, and Stoke. Stoke's top scorer so far this term has been Peter Crouch (pictured, right) who has four Premier League goals to his name.
|William Hill: £25 in free bets|
|Sign up with bet365 for a free bet up to £200|
|Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
Top 3 Predictions
Tottenham 2-0 Stoke City
- 19.48 %
Tottenham 2-1 Stoke City
- 16.25 %
Tottenham 3-1 Stoke City
- 14.31 %
|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||Chelsea FC 4 - Tottenham 0||EPL|
|2 Mar 2014||Tottenham 1 - Cardiff City 0||EPL|
|27 Feb 2014||Tottenham 3 - Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1||EL|
|23 Feb 2014||Norwich City 1 - Tottenham 0||EPL|
|20 Feb 2014||Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1 - Tottenham 0||EL|
The Belgian's ability to dictate a game from the middle of the park was sorely missed when the midfielder suffered a lengthy spell on the sidelines earlier this season. However, with Dembele now back to full fitness, Spurs fans will be hoping the playmaker can pass with the panache he has become known for and give Andre Villas-Boas' side some much-needed bite in midfield.
Tony Pulis will be under no illusions: Saturday's game will come down to how his defence handle Tottenham's attacking riches. That being the case, Shawcross will be the man Potters fans will be most reliant on - especially with the watching world keen to see how he recovers from last weekend's wrestling match with Marouane Fellaini.
Stoke have rightly been lauded for their defensive astuteness this term and, for that reason, goals will be in short supply. That said, Champions League-chasing Tottenham should still have too much firepower for the Potters in the comfort of their own backyard.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed