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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City.

Just looking at Stoke's record this season and their past reputation gives an indication of what is probably in store tomorrow and I doubt it will be pretty.

It is fair to say that Stoke City represent the uglier side of Premiership football and are probably the side I least enjoy watching, such is their physical approach and to not lose at all costs way of playing is hardly what the purists look for in a game today. In recent seasons, we have seen the likes of Swansea enhance the Premiership with their lovely brand of football, and though I respect any team doing what they need to to retain and build on their status, I would argue that in the case of Tony Pulis and Stoke, they might be evolving slowly away from the famous Delap throws, but that change appears snail paced at best.

In their defence, with such riches to be had by simply staying in the Premiership, can we blame Stoke for sticking pretty much with a working plan. Sitting comfortably in mid table might not excite some, but with the gulf ever widening between the Prem and Championship, just staying in the top flight is a very healthy place to be, even if it isn't always pretty. Maybe, having a team that looks to offer a different challenge should actually be embraced instead of being chastised and perhaps we should look at how to overcome the Stoke way of playing instead of moaning about how we don't like it.

Stoke appear to be like every other opponent we have faced in recent weeks and seem to be in good form. Unbeaten in seven games, they are certainly going to feel they can get something at WHL tomorrow and as they have done in the past. If they keep things tight and frustrate us, they have a chance of getting at least a point and perhaps more. In saying that, their away form isn't great, with only one win and seven goals from their nine games, hardly being much to worry about, but if we consider they have drawn five of those, we might again expect a well organised and stubborn opposition who would be delighted with another draw on their travels. Last week, I felt they were very fortunate to get a point, as Everton missed several chances to wrap the game up and despite Marouane Fellaini's attempts to beat up Ryan Shawcross, Stoke were again fortunate to pick up their 9th draw in seventeen games.

Spurs will be delighted to see both Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson return to contention, whilst Scott Parker is gaining fitness after another 68 minutes in mid-week. BAE is back in training, but I doubt he is considered ready to jump straight in after such a long absence. Emmanuel Adebayor is a doubt after going off against Swansea, and I wonder if the return of Bale will allow Clint Dempsey to move inside and Adebayor will either miss out completely or sit on the bench depending on how fit or unfit he is? At the back, I wonder if AVB will adopt the same approach to his selection against a big and physical West Ham in bringing back Dawson to compete against, I assume Walters and Crouch, with Caulkers pace and strength allowing William Gallas a weekend off (or at least the bench) As with that game, I wonder if Jan Vertonghen will revert to left back and give us a big and physical back line.

Elsewhere, I think that Parker will have to wait a little longer to make his return and Sandro and Dembele will retain their places, with Lennon and Bale either side. In what I assume will then be a straight fight between Dempsey and Adebayor, I have a feeling that the injury Emmanuel sustained last week, will give AVB the perfect reason to rest the striker and hope that Dempsey continues his improving form. My team for tomorrow would be as follows: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Vertonghen, Sandro, Dembele, Lennon, Dempsey, Bale, Defoe.

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The journalist

Writer: OxfordSpur Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday December 21 2012

Time: 4:19PM


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