Analysis: Can Stoke City derail Tottenham Hotspur's title charge?

Following a disappointing display last weekend at Liverpool can Stoke beat a Tottenham side eager to regain ground on Leicester City?

Analysis: Can Stoke City derail Tottenham Hotspur's title charge?
Marko Arnautovic and Eric Dier battle for the ball in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane. (Photo: tottenhamhotspur.com)

On Monday evening Stoke City host Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur as they seek to catch Leicester City who currently lead the league by eight points.

However, having watched the Foxes drop points at home to West Ham, and knowing they can reduce the deficit to five points with five matches to play; Spurs will certainly be travelling to Staffordshire with victory in their sights.

Red hot Spurs are favourites

Spurs will be favourites following their recent form which has seen them collect 11 points from a possible 15. This has included back to back home three-nil defeats of Bournemouth and Manchester United respectively. Tottenham will be aiming to assert their domination early on with a squad which must be extremely high on confidence.

Earlier on in the season, Spurs raced into a two goal lead against Stoke before switching off with ten minutes left allowing Stoke to snatch a draw. Tottenham cannot afford to do the same at this late stage of the season and Pochettino’s side appear to have gained a greater resilience as the season has progressed which makes this unlikely.

Can the Potters improve?

Stoke meanwhile have struggled recently as their form has dropped off following their four – one drubbing at the hands of Liverpool last Sunday and letting a two goal lead slip when a victory seemed a formality at home against Swansea. Mark Hughes will be looking to make sure the Potters end the season with a record points total and a league high finish, needing eight points to achieve this and to finish above eighth in the league come May. 

Coming into the match the Stoke back four will have a lot to contend with. Harry Kane, the Premier League’s joint top scorer, will be looking to add to his tally against a defence that has conceded goals easily as of late. The presence of Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier at set pieces will also be of concern, in addition to the intricate, intelligent play of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

Much has been made of the fact that Tottenham have to play after Leicester City for the majority of the run in, and the pressure this places on Tottenham because they constantly have to play catch up. It will be vital for Mauricio Pochettino to make sure that this doesn’t affect his players and their approach to the match as they seek to close the gap at the top.

Much to ponder for Hughes

For Stoke, the return of Marko Arnautovic will certainly be a boost to a side that lacked urgency and attacking flair against a much changed Liverpool side in midweek. It will also be interesting to see whether Hughes plays Joselu as the sole striker or whether he opts for Mame Biram Diouf to lead the line as the Peter Crouch experiment at Anfield last week failed to pay off.

Stoke will hope that Bojan continues his magical form that has seen him score twice in his last two matches. Stoke fans have been encouraged in recent weeks as he appears to be reaching the level he was at before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. If he continues his upward trajectory then it would be unwise to bet against the Spaniard scoring against Spurs. 

Geoff Cameron chases Harry Kane earlier on in the season. | Photo: Julian Ferry/Getty Images.
Geoff Cameron chases Harry Kane earlier on in the season. | Photo: Julian Ferry/Getty Images.

Goalkeeping quandaries 

Jakob Haugaard has been criticised since he has been included in the Stoke side due to his mistakes which have cost the Potters in recent weeks.

With Shay Given chomping at the bit to prove his fitness and form ahead of Euro 2016 it may be that Hughes opts for the Irish goalkeeper and the experience that he can bring to the Stoke back four against Tottenham. This could certainly help to tighten up the back line which has been skaky since Jack Butland was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken ankle. 

Where the match will be won and lost

If Stoke are to upset Spurs then the battle in midfield will be key. The Potters’ home record has been patchy at best this season. Keeping the attacking quartet of Kane, Alli, Nacer Chadli and Eriksen is not easy, and with Erik Pieters being suspended alongside an injury to Marc Muniesa, Stoke may be susceptible down their left hand side with Geoff Cameron likely to play at left back.

If the Potters are to gain anything from this match then they need to be fast and direct on the counter attack. Pochettino’s side rely heavily on Kyle Walker and Danny Rose overlapping down the wings, if Stoke can break quickly and exploit this space at full back then they certainly have the attacking capability to cause Tottenham problems.

Spurs meanwhile will be hoping that their confidence and motivation following Leicester City drawing at home will carry them to within five points of the league leaders with a win at the Britannia Stadium.