Tottenham’s Britannia fortunes rest on fitness of Bale and co
Should Spurs avoid defeat at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow they’ll stretch their unbeaten run to 12 games, which will represent their most impressive run since 1984/85.
They’ve won six successive league games and possess a side with pace, steel and intelligence, often capable of playing the most attractive football in the league.
Harry Redknapp is no master tactician. He’s assembled this Spurs side by following English football’s most basic premise – ensuring players know their exact role in the side, by playing them in their favoured, and best, positions.
With overlapping full backs, pacey centre backs, one holding and one creative central midfielder, two wingers capable of going past their marker and a traditional targetman, Redknapp’s only weekly dilemma has been whether to plump for a pacey ‘little man’ in Defoe or a withdrawn ‘number ten’ in Van der Vaart, when selecting who will play off Adebayor.
It’s a simple formula that has worked so effectively it has propelled Spurs into third and, according to their boss, well in with a shout of the Premier League title.
So what can go wrong? Well, before kick off tomorrow Tottenham will be assessing the fitness of three key players – Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and skipper Ledley King.
While Van der Vaart will come in should Defoe fail his fitness test, the absence of integral duo Bale and King cannot be underestimated.
Already missing Michael Dawson, Niko Kranjcar and Tom Huddlestone, it is Spurs’ ability to pick up points at tricky venues like the Britannia when not at full strength that will really define their title credentials.
Particularly as Stoke welcome back their own important absentees, Rory Delap and Jermaine Pennant, and come into the game in buoyant mood on the back of two successive Premier League wins and qualification confirmed for the latter stages of the Europa League.
The home side are 12/5 to make it three league wins on the spin and return to eighth place, while the draw is also temptingly priced at 12/5.
Punters may wish to wait on the team news before plumping for an away win (11/10), though recent history does favour the visitors – despite its reputation, the Britannia has been a successful venue for Redknapp in recent seasons; they may have lost on penalties in the Carling Cup earlier this season but his side have taken maximum league points on their last two visits.