Premier League: How Tottenham Hotspur Will Line Up Against Stoke City
For Tottenham, hopes of finishing fourth are reliant on an unbeaten finish, and Arsenal and Everton both losing their remaining games. Realistically then, the best the north London club can aim for is to finish sixth, ahead of Manchester United, again securing Europa League football (though some supporters would prefer them not to be back in the latter competition).
The Stoke side Spurs face this weekend are a different prospect to the one they beat comfortably in December.
A tough January ensued for the Potters. Since then, however, 20 points from 12 matches has comfortably secured their top-flight status for another season.
The Britannia Stadium's status as a tough place to win has also been reaffirmed over the course of the year. Spurs may not be facing a team desperate for points, like Fulham or West Bromwich Albion in their previous two matches, but they will, nonetheless, do well to come away with the maximum.
Spurs boss Tim Sherwood is likely to stick with more or less the same side he has fielded in recent weeks.
Goalkeeper and Defence
Hugo Lloris is probably the first name on Sherwood's team-sheet for positional convenience. The Frenchman's continued reliability in goal almost certainly makes him the first man the Spurs boss would want in his team anyway.
Lloris helped his team stay in front against Fulham last week, making a particularly eye-catching second-half save from a Hugo Rodallega diving header. With the pressure from Stoke likely to be even greater, the goalkeeper is likely to have a busy afternoon.
As too will be the defence in front of him.
Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose are likely to continue in the full-back positions. Centre-back is less certain.
Younes Kaboul is a good bet to start his eighth Premier League game in a row. The stand-in skipper's performances have not been flawless, but his effort has been second-to-none.
Michael Dawson has a week's training under his belt after a hamstring injury. Sherwood could bring him back into the team to help give Spurs a better counter to the aerial threat provided by Stoke players like Peter Crouch and Ryan Shawcross.
For the purposes of continuity and providing a more natural balance to Kaboul, Sherwood might opt to hand Zeki Fryers another start in central defence.
The 21-year-old found it hard work last week against Rodallega particularly, but he settled as the match wore on.
His manager told the Tottenham & Wood Green Journal's Tom Moore and Ben Pearce this week he envisions the versatile Fryers eventually becoming a full-time centre-back. The present is a more pressing concern of course, but Sherwood might nonetheless like another look at Fryers there.
The wide positions of the Tottenham midfield are looking nailed down right now.
Given the move back to what is essentially a 4-4-2 formation, coming in from the left has been deemed Christian Eriksen's most suitable position to influence games.
Debate will continue among supporters as to whether this is his best position. What is not up for discussion is the fact he has been scoring and setting up goals from there.
The past two matches have easily been Aaron Lennon's best couple of games in 2014. There has been more zip in his running, while his crossing has also been better judged than for quite sometime; his cross for Harry Kane's goal last weekend was a beauty.
Andros Townsend has looked lively in his recent cameos. Yet, barring a change of heart from Sherwood, the young winger is looking like playing back-up to the pair in front of him.
The Spurs boss praised Paulinho's performance against Fulham in his post-match comments to the club's official Twitter page. The Brazilian is making the most of his chance back in the team with increasingly productive outings, and that should continue here.
After three games partnering Paulinho in central midfield proper, Nacer Chadli may now make way.
He was especially quiet against the Cottagers, and he may lose out to his substitute replacement and compatriot Mousa Dembele.
Sherwood may seek to provoke the kind of response he has seen from Paulinho by handing Dembele an opportunity at Stoke. After a patchy few months, he too will want to conclude the campaign with some momentum with a World Cup to look forward to.
Kane must be on top of the world right now. He has broken into the Tottenham first team and scored three goals in three matches.
Last week was his quietest showing by far. Yet, he took his chance when it came his way, finishing with an impeccable glancing header.
Kane will almost certainly be partnered upfront again by Emmanuel Adebayor.
The six foot-plus strike pair are far from being a couple of big lumps to hit the ball long to. Given Stoke's height at both ends, ensuring Spurs have numbers capable of contesting aerial situations does not hurt.
Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. Stoke: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul (c), Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Paulinho, Dembele, Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane.
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