Stoke vs. Tottenham: Picking the Ideal Spurs XI to Face Stoke
With two matches remaining in the Premier League season and Tottenham sitting outside of the top four, the north London club's match at Stoke City on Sunday could not be more vital.
Unfortunately for Spurs, though, they do not have a good record against the Potters over the past few seasons, especially in matches at the Britannia Stadium.
The Londoners are winless in their past four encounters with Stoke, including two losses away from home.
However, Stoke enter this match all but safe from the threat of relegation, giving them little incentive to go for the win and increasing the likelihood of a letdown.
As so much is riding on this particular match for his club, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has to get his tactics just right in order to give his squad the best chance to achieve a much-needed victory.
So who should the Portuguese manager start to deal with Stoke's unique style?
Here is a good option for a starting XI on each side:
For Spurs, some positions are all but given.
At keeper, Hugo Lloris has established himself as one of the finest starters in the league. It's hard to imagine the Frenchman not starting a match except due to injury.
PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale is a sure bet at attacking midfielder, where he has wreaked havoc all season.
Kyle Walker has been a fixture at right-back and is likely to get the start there while Aaron Lennon's pace ahead of him will make for some dangerous attacks down the right flank.
Captain Michael Dawson is definitely getting the start at center-back, having started the past 17 straight Premier League matches for Tottenham.
From there, the lineup is a little more dicey.
In the middle of the park, Belgian Moussa Dembele will hope to make his return after missing Spurs' match with Chelsea on Wednesday while Scott Parker will be a good option as he can help the defense out from the midfield.
Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor is a good pick over Jermain Defoe not only because of the Togolese striker's fine performance in attack against Chelsea, but also because his height and ability to win headers will help Tottenham deal with Stoke's size on set pieces.
Gylfi Sigurdsson's equalizer at Stamford Bridge should get him the nod over Clint Dempsey and Lewis Holtby, with Sigurdsson starting on the left to allow Bale to roam through the middle.
Finally, the most radical change to the lineup comes at the back. While Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been the first-choice left-back since his return from injury, the Cameroonian has struggled with his defensive duties and is not the best in the air.
Hence, a good option would be to push central defender Jan Vertonghen out wide where he performed very well at the start of the season while Assou-Ekotto was injured.
In the spot left vacant by Vertonghen in the center of defense, the 21-year-old Steven Caulker can fill in. Caulker has been very impressive this season, especially in the air. What the young Englishman lacks in experience might not hurt him so much against Stoke as his aerial ability would be invaluable.
On paper, this defensive shift would work perfectly. The only question about it would be whether it would disrupt the side's rhythm, especially as Dawson and Vertonghen have built a nice partnership in the center.
Still, the matchups this lineup would create would be advantageous for Tottenham and give them a good chance at leaving the Britannia Stadium with a vital three points.
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