Strap yourself in, itâ€™s Stoke City away on Saturday afternoon and if itâ€™s anything like our last visit to the Britannia, it could be a bumpy ride.Â Last time out we lost 2-1, finished with nine men, gave away two penalties and had Charlie Corluka carried off wearing an oxygen mask. Very possibly the lowest point of Juande Ramosâ€™s reign. (Was it really only last season?)
The long throw and the walking tree trunks that make up the majority of the Stoke team (if you go by their reputation) present a unique challenge, one that Iâ€™m sure Seb Bassong is licking his lips in anticipation at. Gomes has been practising pawing at crosses in preparation for the Delap barrage according to news reports, but he shouldâ€™ve been anyway after the goals we conceded against Everton and Blackburn.Â Our keeper still has his eccentric moments, but has played well enough to be in the running for player of the season. Heâ€™ll be a key man in this game as heâ€™s bound to come and try and catch every ball, which isnâ€™t a bad tactic as long as he doesnâ€™t hurt himself, heâ€™s probably the one player we canâ€™t afford to lose before the summer.
Weâ€™ve no new injuries as far as I know and have received good news about the recovery times of a couple of the crocked. Bentley is rumoured to be available but will probably only make the bench. Whilst you donâ€™t want your team selection entirely dominated by the opposition Redknapp would surely be foolish not to bring in Crouch and heâ€™ll be looking wistfully in the direction of the six foot three Kaboul as well. There are stories of defenders and keepers booting the ball over their own goal line rather than give Stoke a throw on, hopefully we wont resort to that and with Bale and Pav in such outstanding form, we should be capable of giving the home team more to think about than which towel to wipe the ball with.
Mike Dean is the man in the middle who hopefully wonâ€™t be handing Wilson Palacios his tenth yellow of the season and a two game ban, weâ€™ll need him at his best over the coming few weeks.
The pressure is on. A couple of teams behind us won in midweek and have closed the gap.Â All of Villa, Man City and Liverpool have been to the Britannia and drawn but we can do better than that. Score prediction â€“ 1-0 to us, late winner, Defoe after a Modric flick on from a Bale long throw.
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