Normally with a match preview, I tend to write about the home side before moving on to that weekend’s visitors but as we start truly reach the pointy end of the season, Tottenham’s trip to Stoke City it’s the away side who takes precedence.
As Leicester City’s march to a seemingly likely Premier League title just continues to defy basic footballing reason, Tottenham’s rise to second in the table and their very own title challenge can be identified with greater ease. Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino has been at Spurs now for nearly two seasons and in that time he has trimmed and shaped the squad leaving him players who are both capable and feed into his pressing and high work rate Pochettino duly requires. His shrewd dealings in the transfer market has seen him sign the likes of Dele Alli and Eric Dier for a combined free of less than £10million. Coupled with the promotion of the likes of Harry Kane into the first team and Pochettino has a core of young, hungry and predominately English players who feed into his philosophy. Simply it is a Spurs side built with the future and their new stadium in mind.
Stoke City are another team who, with a change of coach, has seen a change in philosophy for the better. Under Mark Hughes, Stoke have broken out of the long ball stereotype so synonymous with Tony Pulis and have developed into a team with the most Champions League winners in the Premier League. It is flair personified. The Barcelona of the North of England.
Yet for all this flair, one thing that is apparent with Stoke unlike Tottenham is that for all their transformation under Hughes, Stoke City have lost a little bit of their defensive solidarity. In the last 10 games Stoke have lost four games but three of those have seen the Potters concede three or more goals. Whilst their defence isn’t by all means the worse the league and when Stoke turn up with all guns firing they are truly brilliant (just ask Manchester City when they felt the wrath of Shaqiri, Arnautovic, Bojan and Affellay) but with 12 defeats this season, these moments of brilliance just hasn’t occurred often enough.
Both sides had very different results last weekend. Stoke City was the back end of a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool, whilst Tottenham kept their title challenge going with a brilliant 10 minute spell that saw them put three goals past Manchester United. With a win this evening, Tottenham will move within 5 points of Leicester and whilst two results still need to swing their way, Tottenham have looked brilliant all season and I see once more that Stoke City are just a minor inconvenience for Spurs.
Stoke City: Haugaard, Bardsley, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Cameron, Imbula, Adam, Affellay, Bojan, Shaqiri, Diouf
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Dembélé, Lamela, Alli, Eriksen, Kane
Match Result: Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog