On Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur visit the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City with Spurs looking to keep momentum and set a new club record of four consecutive away wins in the Premier League. Stoke will be keen to build on their two wins following four consecutive losses. This may be a close match. The last three visits by Spurs have resulted in a 2-1 score line, the last two in the Lilywhites favour. The three visits have also seen three penalties and three red cards and there may be more with Chris Foy the referee, having brandished five reds this season.
Offensively, Spurs have been playing with a fluidity, speed and variation that should cause the Stoke defence problems. The Potters have conceded 23 goals this season, seven in their last three home league games. Stoke full backs Marc Wilson and Andy Wilkinson have let 18 successful dribbles past them and may be kept busy by the Spurs wingers especially if they switch to cut infield, inviting their full backs to provide extra width as in recent games.
Other areas that could be problematic for the Potters are their susceptibility to the through ball and the long shot. Luka Modric and Scott Parker have completed 13 accurate through balls to the forwards and both Spurs wingers like to pull the ball back to the edge of the area creating chances for Defoe or van der Vaart. Both may shoot early and from distance especially as Stoke have conceded 26% of goals from long range. Also, whilst the Stoke back four put in a high number of tackles, in doing so the usual starters have given away 50 fouls this season. Perhaps as a result, Stoke have conceded 64% of goals from set pieces, which may provide chances for van der Vaart.
The Stoke defence put in a high number of clearances which, when won are usually moved wide to Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, who alone have supplied over 200 crosses this season. Perhaps unsurprisingly Stoke have scored 36% of their goals from headers this season. Spurs by common consent have been more solid defensively this season; they may need to be with Stoke having a slight advantage in aerial dual success. The defence though should be helped by the excellent Scott Parker disrupting the Stoke knockdown from the clearance and supply to the wings.
Spurs should have the majority of the ball. Stoke average only 41% possession and with this a 69% pass accuracy. Spurs average 53% and 84% respectively. They also average 16 shots per away match, 7 on target. Giving away greater possession to such a skillful, confident side, and having no natural defensive midfielder to disrupt Spurs rhythm may well hurt Stoke. Arguably Spurs should run out winners, perhaps by another 2-1 score line.
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