Match Preview: Tottenham vs Stoke

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Stoke City come to White Hart Lane on Saturday and if you’re looking for the footballing equivalent of satin sheets and a fine cognac underneath an Ella Fitzgerald soundtrack you should probably begin your search elsewhere. The Potters reputation as a large and uncompromising team goes before them, as does the phrase “there’s more to Stoke than Delap’s long throws”.  There may be some truth in that banality but the seemingly endless wait whenever a throw-in is won as the Stoke midfielder lumbers to the sideline ready to hoist the ball towards the queue of cavemen rushing into the six yard box makes it seem otherwise. 

Last season this game was a relegation dogfight in which Luka Modric starred in a central midfield role. All fears about being intimidated & outmuscled were banished almost from the word go as Aaron Lennon proved that size isn’t everything as he made a mug of Andy Wilkinson and nicked an early goal from which we never looked back. The game was also notable for what appeared to be the sparks of a promising understanding developing between Defoe and Pavlyuchenko, a partnership that for various reasons has never been given the full trial it possibly deserved. And of course it’s a non-starter this week as Jermain will spend this one sitting on the naughty step after his tap dance on Mokoena’s shinpad last weekend. 

Harry’s tactics will come under scrutiny the moment the team is announced seeing as how he’s got several decisions to make. We’ve got centre backs coming out of our ears for a change and given the way that Bassong has struggled against some of the bigger players he’s come up against it’ll be a surprise if some combination of King, Woodgate and Dawson doesn’t start. If he plays, Ledley will be pleased to be back on the left hand side of the centre pairing, he doesn’t look quite so comfortable playing on the right. 

In midfield there are also a number of options, assuming there are no injuries. Harry will be loathe to drop any of Jenas, Palacios or big Tom and despite fitting into the side so well since his debut Kranjcar may find himself on the bench for this one. In last season’s game Lennon ran riot on the left and if Redknapp remembers that there’s a good chance that Jenas will start on the right in front of Corluka. Crouch and Keane will almost certainly pair up in attack but Pav will be gagging for the later stages of the game and the chance to get a rare run around.

Lee Probert is one of the less experienced Premier League refs and from what I can tell he’s not reffed at WHL before, fingers crossed he takes kindly to any Wilson tackles, our midfield tough guy is fast approaching his first ban of the season.

Robert Huth is suspended and Stoke have a couple of injuries in Faye and Sidibe. There are also doubts over Whelan and Lawrence.  They will still bring with them organisation, some noisy support and the confidence that comes from discovering a successful system and sticking to it. It’ll be a contrast in styles and a tough game but we’re more than capable of celebrating Harry’s first year in charge the same way it began, with a win and three points.

PaddyPower: Jermaine Jenas to score and Tottneham to win 9/2


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