Stoke City are the latest obstacle in Tottenham’s improbable title charge on Monday evening and they themselves have relatively little to play for over the run in. Mark Hughes’ men have once again made great strides forward as a club and have showed signs of becoming a side capable of challenging in the top six, but it may be a season too soon for them to finish higher than mid table. Meanwhile their opponents Spurs have overachieved and look set to finish in the top two, but they require a huge collapse from Leicester to win the title, which looks unlikely at this stage.
The home club are three points above Chelsea at the moment, and will be aiming to finish above the champions, but anything higher than a top half finish looks beyond Stoke at this stage. The success of West Ham, Southampton and Leicester will give Stoke belief that they can do something similar next season, especially if they make some more clever signings over the summer. The signings of Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri have taken the side onto the next level with some Champions League quality and Stoke need to bring in more players of that calibre to continue growing as a club.
Tottenham were targeting a top four finish this season and they appear to have done that with ease. They are currently 2nd, and 12 points clear of Manchester United in 5th. It would take a massive collapse for Spurs not to join Leicester in next season’s Champions League and they have to take the positives from that, regardless of what happens in the title race. The North London club need Leicester to drop seven points and they themselves need to win almost all of their remaining matches to keep the pressure on Claudio Ranieri’s men.
In the earlier meeting this season, Stoke came back from 2-0 down to get a point at White Hart Lane. Eric Dier and Nacer Chadli scored for the hosts, before a Marko Arnautovic penalty and a goal from Mame Biram Diouf got Stoke back level. In the corresponding fixture from last season, Stoke ran out 3-0 winners with Charlie Adam, Steven N’Zonzi and an own goal from Jan Vertonghen gave Stoke the three points.
Stoke have only won one of their last five games as they begin to look to next season.
Tottenham have won seven of their last ten matches with only Leicester having a better record in the Premier League.
Bojan has seen his reputation hugely increase since joining Stoke and he is once again seen as a consistent performer and there is still room for him to grow into a top player. He has seven goals this season and has netted in each of his last two league matches, which suggests he could go on a good run of goalscoring form during the run in. The Spaniard is skilful and has the ability to lead Stoke into Europe in the coming years. At the age of 25, he is approaching the best period of his career and for Stoke to have him in their squad will only benefit them. His strengths are running with the ball, with his low centre of gravity making him difficult to defend against, while his ability to pick a pass is up their with the best in the division. Spurs are likely to dominate possession, but Stoke will be dangerous on the counter, and Bojan has the ability to punish any errors made by the away side.
Dele Alli has been a resounding success this season and has emerged as a key player for both club and country. After joining from League 1 MK Dons, there wasn’t a lot expected from the midfielder and he was seen as one for the future. However, the Englishman has shown that he is ready for the big time and has the potential to be one of the best players this country has produced in recent years. His goals against France and Crystal Palace show that he has the ability to score out of nothing, while his overall movement in the final third suggests that he will always be a goal threat, even when in bad form. The 20-year-old has scored eight goals and has nine assists, which is an exceptional return in his debut campaign in the top flight. He is growing as a player all the time and could go on to achieve similar things to Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in his career, although he is probably more attack minded than both.
Marc Muniesa, Glenn Whelan and Marko Arnautovic are all doubts for Monday’s match with various knocks. Marc Wilson, Jonathan Walters and Glen Johnson remain a couple of weeks away from a return. Jack Butland will be missing for the rest of the season, while Shay Given is pushing for a start after a disappointing display from number two Jakob Haugaard against Liverpool.
Harry Kane is a doubt for this fixture, but he is expected to start. If he does miss out then that will leave Spurs with a big problem as they don’t have a recognised striker as back up. Nabil Bentaleb is expected to miss out with a knee injury, but Clinton N’Jie could return after a substantial period of time out with a similar injury.
I expect Tottenham to be too strong for Stoke, with the home side having nothing but pride to play for. That can sometimes make sides more dangerous as they play with freedom, but Spurs should have the professionalism and quality to take the three points and keep the pressure on Leicester. The Foxes have a tough match against West Ham and Spurs could be given a welcome boost of their main challengers dropping points on Sunday. If that is the case, this match will grow in importance and Stoke may see it as an opportunity to influence the title race. Spurs should have enough, but Stoke have the players to cause problems, especially at home.
Stoke City 1-3 Tottenham