As if we’re not already up to our necks in injuries, we’ve been brought the news that Jermain Defoe has a hamstring injury that will keep him out for up to a month. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was on an incredible high from the earlier news that Arsenal had drawn Barcelona, I may have broken down and wept.
So exactly who do we play in his absence? Pavlyuchenko, obviously. He’s scoring goals for fun and is similar to Defoe in terms of their instinctive finishing.
Harry said only this week that all our strikers need a partner and can’t play alone up front, so that should rule out playing 4-5-1 (though as Pavlyuchenko plays up top for Russia, with Arshavin playing off him, I’m not sure I agree with HR). So will it be Crouch or Gudjohnsen? I’d say that the Icelandic forward is the more natural partner to Pav, but I’d be surprised if Harry doesn’t start with Crouch.
Against Stoke’s aerial bombardment, Crouch will be just as useful in our area as he’s likely to be in theirs and that’s why he should start, even though he and Pavlyuchenko don’t seem like a great partnership.
We also still have our problems in midfield, with Jenas not available despite being back in training. Modric has been alright in central midfield against Fulham and Blackburn, but it’s not his best position and Stoke away from home will present a more difficult challenge.
This game as a whole represents a big challenge to Spurs. A win would be massive. Only two teams have won at the Britannia stadium this season (Birmingham and Arsenal) and they’re not the type of opposition that Spurs traditionally excel against.
On paper, this team should be able to deal with the long throw ins better than most. Yes, Modric is a midget, but Dawson, Bassong, Corluka, Palacios, Bale, Kranjcar, Pavlyuchenko and Crouch are all reasonably tall (actually ‘reasonably tall’ is one thing that Crouch isn’t).
It’s Gomes that worries me. I’m sold on him as a shot saver, but any cross whipped into our box still scares the bejesus out of me. Last time he played against Stoke he spent much of the game crying, which never inspires confidence.
Still, they might have a great record at home, but they’re not Barcelona. It’s Stoke City. A team promoted only last season and who we outplayed at White Hart Lane earlier this season, even if they did come away with a 1-0 win. It’s tough, but certainly a game we can win.
I don’t think we will though. I’m predicting a 1-1 draw and anything better than that will be a bonus.