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Had we picked up a decent result in Madrid then I’d be fearful about whether we’d be up for this. Now we surely must be. It’s become a far more important match than the second leg of Champions League quarter finals and if we’re to stand any chance of playing in that tournament next year, it’s a game that we simply must win.
We have dropped points aplenty against the minnows and also-rans of the Premier League of late and yet we are still in with a chance of finishing in the top four. Chelsea are probably out of reach with five of their remaining eight games to be played at Stamford Bridge, but Manchester City can be caught.
City are six points ahead of us, but we’ve got a game in hand. If we can get near to them, you’ve got to fancy they’ll have the serious jitters when we travel to Eastlands in May for a repeat of last season’s Champions League showdown.
That said, games in hand are all well and good, but not much use unless you win them. To do that we have to start scoring goals again and no one at the moment looks particularly capable of doing so.
It says a lot about our current situation that I have absolutely no idea as to who Harry will pick up front tomorrow. Jermain Defoe was simply terrible against West Ham and should only play if we start with a 4-4-2, as he just can’t cut it alone.
Then there’s Peter Crouch, who you might normally pick against Stoke to help out defensively at set-pieces, but is likely to be under a fair bit of pressure from our own fans after his idiocy in Madrid. Much as I dislike him as a player, I’d probably start with Pav in the team tomorrow. Yes, he’s lazy, but he is an instinctive and clinical finisher, whereas Defoe is thinking too hard about the craft of goalscoring at the moment.
In an earlier post on this site today, someone commented that we should forget about all three strikers and play with six midfielders, spearheaded by Van der Vaart and Niko Kranjcar. As calls go it’s not the worst I’ve heard. Roma played very well a couple of seasons ago without a proper striker in the team, but I’ve got my doubts as to whether VDV is fit enough at the moment. If we’re looking for goals though, somehow getting Kranjcar into the team might be an idea, after his heroics against Bolton and Sunderland.
The team should be pumped up for this and ready to prove that their display against Real was just one of those nights when everything went wrong. An early goal would set us on our way, but the longer we go without breaking the deadlock, then the more jittery the afternoon is likely to become.
Much as I’d like to be confident, I’m expecting a long afternoon from which I’ll emerge from White Hart Lane with badly gnawed nails.
Prediction: Spurs 1 Stoke 0
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