Stoke City host Tottenham Hotspur at the Britannia Stadium in one of the 3pm fixtures this Saturday. The same game last season saw Spurs solidify their title credentials with a great performance in a 4-0 win for the North London side, thanks to braces from Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
This time around, however, Stoke are a stronger outfit with more to play for. Deadline day signing Wilfred Bony is a fantastic asset to the home side; he guarantees goals and should thrive off the service of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan, and Xherdan Shaqiri. Mark Hughes’ transformation of Stoke from a brutish, long-ball, ‘Pulis’ style side to one brimming with quality is remarkable; Stoke have four players in the squad who have featured in Champions League semi finals, and three of these have winners’ medals. Almost as remarkable is that this is the same club who have Charlie Adam, Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson on professional contracts.
Of course, Spurs have also strengthened, although they are still without powerhouse Moussa Dembele. Spurs may well have a very different attacking four to their last game, against Liverpool, as Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou could well all start after the poor recent performances of Kane and Eriksen. NKoudou could replace Erik Lamela in the starting XI, but given his inexperience this is unlikely; while Dele Alli should start after a good substitute performance for England in the Euros, as well as a promising display off the bench against Liverpool. It looks as if the youngster has certainly found his feet again.
In terms of form, Spurs have the upper hand. Stoke are yet to register a Premier League win so far this season, and have just a solitary point, with defeats to Manchester City and Everton coming after a draw away at Middlesborough on the opening day. However, the arrival of Bony is likely to invigorate the squad, such is the Ivorian’s quality, so Spurs will still have to be on top of their game – which they haven’t been so far this year. Mauricio Pochettino’s side come into the game undefeated, but with 5 points from their opening three games – draws against both Liverpool and Everton inbetween a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Expected starting lineups:
Stoke starting XI Spurs starting XI
Injuries and suspensions:
For the home side, first-choice goalkeeper Jack Butland is still out, while Mame Diouf may not feature having missed training today. Butland’s follow up surgery means he will be out for the next 2 months or so – a huge boost for Spurs, after Butland’s superb performance in the reverse fixture last season kept them in the game, which they eventually rescued a point from. Diouf is suspected to have a tight hamstring after returning from international duty, so is unlikely to be risked. Other than that, Stoke’s side is at full strength.
Despite Martin Skrtel’s best efforts, Harry Kane is fit to play at the weekend, suffering no damage after the stamp in Slovakia. Spurs will be bolstered by a likely return to the first team for Frenchman Hugo Lloris, who returns after an injury suffered against Everton, while Moussa Dembele is set for his final missed game through suspension. Kyle Walker has recovered from a niggle picked up against Liverpool, and played 90 minutes for the national side.
The game will probably be a tight and physical affair, as most Stoke games usually are, but now we are out of Harry Kane’s voodoo month of August, now would be a good time for last year’s Golden Boot winner to find his form again. Spurs should take the points here, especially with Kane’s international teammate Dele Alli looking back to his best, although we expect Stoke’s new frontman Wilfred Bony to play very well on his home debut. So, Spurs to win, but Stoke to score.
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