STOKE CITY could extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight matches on Saturday… but the task is a tough one as they make the trip to White Hart Lane to face top four-chasing Tottenham Hotspur.
André Villas-Boas’ men have grabbed their season by the scruff of the neck after a difficult start, and are currently occupying fourth place in the Premier League – a position that will see them qualify for the Champions League if they stay there at the end of the year.
There are many twists and turns to come before then, though, and Spurs haven’t found the Potters an easy proposition in recent seasons.
Last year they needed a last-gasp equaliser from Rafael van der Vaart to rescue a point at White Hart Lane, while two seasons previously Glenn Whelan snatched their finest away win in the Premier League since City’s return to the top flight in 2008.
Tottenham Hotspur Fact-File
Full name: Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
Stadium: White Hart Lane
Chairman: Daniel Levy
Manager: André Villas-Boas
2011/12: Premier League (4th), FA Cup (Semi-Final), League Cup (Third Round), Europa League (Group Stage).
Record transfer fee paid: £16.75m for Luka Modric to Dinamo Zagreb, June 2008
Record transfer fee received: £33m for Luka Modric from Real Madrid, August 2012
Introducing the Gaffer
André Villas-Boas’ reputation in English football needed rebuilding after his ill-fated spell in charge of Chelsea… and he’s certainly taken the first steps to re-establishing himself as one of the most promising young managers in Europe during his time at White Hart Lane.
The Portuguese boss has steered the North London Club into the Champions League places as the season approaches half-way – no mean achievement after the slow start to his reign.
Many Spurs fans were uncertain about the Club’s direction after sacking Harry Redknapp in the summer and appointing the man who had flopped when presented with the chance to succeed Carlo Ancelotti at Stamford Bridge.
Chairman Daniel Levy’s ambitions started to become clear, however – what with a state-of-the-art training facility built and a new stadium in the pipeline, he saw the meticulous and forward-thinking Villas-Boas as the man to usher Spurs into an exciting new era.
His reputation was set during a short but successful spell at FC Porto in his native country, where he won the treble in his only season in charge, including a Europa League triumph.
His previous management experience was limited to short spells in charge of the British Virgin Islands and Académica, but he learnt the trade working as a coach under Jose Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
Dean Whitehead could be set for a return to the Potters team as Charlie Adam is likely to miss out.
Ryan Shotton is also available for selection after serving his one-match suspension for his sending off against Aston Villa.
Tony Pulis has no further injury concerns, with the only long-term absentee being Marc Wilson (broken leg), who is set to return in the New Year.
Wigan Athletic v Arsenal (12:45)
Manchester City v Reading
Newcastle United v Queens Park Rangers
Southampton v Sunderland
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v STOKE CITY
West Bromwich Albion v Norwich City
West Ham United v Everton
Liverpool v Fulham (17:30)
Swansea City v Manchester United (Sunday, 13:30)
Chelsea v Aston Villa (Sunday, 16:00)
All games kick-off on Saturday at 15:00 unless otherwise stated.
Head to Head
League: 19 Stoke City wins; 39 Tottenham Hotspur wins; 16 draws
FA Cup: 4 Stoke City wins; 1 Tottenham Hotspur win; 2 draws
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 0 Tottenham Hotspur wins; 1 draw
TOTAL: 23 Stoke City wins; 40 Tottenham Hotspur wins; 19 draws
Last Five Encounters
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 21/03/2012
Stoke City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League) – 11/12/2011
Stoke City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Capital One Cup) – 20/09/2011
Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Stoke City (Premier League) – 09/04/2011
Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League) – 21/08/2010
Stoke City win 5/1; Tottenham Hotspur win 8/13; draw 11/4
Referee – Lee Mason
Lee Mason takes charge of his fifteenth game of the season at White Hart Lane on Saturday… and will hoping to carry on his record of not sending a player off this campaign.
In fact, in his most recent game – Fulham’s 2-1 win over Newcastle United on December 10th – he didn’t award any cards: a rare occurrence in the cut and thrust world of the Premier League.
This will be his third Stoke City match of the season. He oversaw the Potters’ 0-0 draw with Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium back in August, while he also refereed the stalemate against Liverpool at Anfield in October.
His last Spurs game was their 2-1 win at Southampton later that month.