Our football scribe takes a look at Saturday’s Premier League game between Stoke and Tottenham.
The premier league returns after another yawn-inducing international break. It would be relatively safe to say that both these sides are under a certain degree of pressure. Stoke are rooted to the bottom of the log and will be hoping that some of their daring deadline day deals help to reinvigorate a somewhat tired formula. Spurs are struggling to recapture the form that saw them as realistic title contenders for much of last season. Their four-nil victory at Britannia last season was perhaps their marquee result of the campaign, so Mark Hughes and the Potters will do well not to underestimate a Spurs side searching for a kick-start.
Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur | Saturday 10 September | Britannia | 16:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Stoke 7/2 | Draw 26/10 | Spurs 8/10
It’s clear that Mark Hughes is trying to change the way that Stoke City is perceived. Under his tenure, the club has distanced itself more and more from the robust stylistics of the Pulis era. With three consecutive 9th place finishes, it’s hard to tell how much the club has truly evolved. The loan acquisitions of Wilfried Bony and Bruno Martins-Indi seem to indicate a refortification of a hard-lined approach. An old fashioned centre forward coupled with a no-nonsense centre-half. Perhaps Hughes realizes that his team has erred too far away from what made the Britannia of old such a daunting fortress.
Joe Allen has already endeared himself to the home faithful and will likely partner Imbula in the heart of midfield. Whelan may be deemed slightly immobile to deal with the likes of Sissoko and Wanyama. That is where Stoke are going to be severely tested. The mobility and athleticism of this Spurs side is second to none. They are going to need the Shaqiri’s and Arnautovic’s of this world to be willing to do dirty work.
If Bony were to start, he may have a tough afternoon coming up against Alderweireld and Vertonghen. Ring-rust should not distract from the fact that Bony could turn out to be a brilliant fit in this Stoke line-up.
Over the course of the last five seasons, Spurs have had a better record at the Britannia than any other side. They have won three of five visits to a venue notoriously difficult to gate-crash. Perhaps it’s due to Hughes insistence on making Stoke a more palatable entity on the eye. They are simply outmatched in terms of speed and skill by this Spurs side. Now the brilliant- albeit slightly expensive – signing of Moussa Sissoko will take that dynamism to the next level. He will probably start this weekend as Erik Lamella gets some rest following a gruelling international qualifying schedule with Argentina.
Captain Hugo Lloris returns to fitness and should replace the extremely capable Vorm this weekend. It’s quite a luxury for Pochettino to know that he has a reserve goalkeeper as dependable as Vorm.
I expect Spurs to dominate a slightly weak Stoke midfield. Spurs should be able to launch effective counterattacks as Stoke try to assert some form of dominance over possession. I expect Walker and Rose to be far more effective than they have thus far this season. Bardsley and Pieters could be exposed by Spurs’ deadly full-backs, while Wanyama and Sissoko will give Spurs the midfield edge. I also back Harry Kane to break his scoring duck this weekend.
Verdict: Spurs 8/10This Stoke side is still struggling to find the right balance between style and substance. Spurs may have started poorly this year, with many of their star players feeling the hangover effects of the Euros, but I expect them to find their rhythm this weekend.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets
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