Stoke v Tottenham: Can Spurs crack Potters' fortress?

TOTTENHAM travel to one of the most hostile grounds in the country on Saturday as they take on savage Stoke at Britannia Stadium. Tony Pulis's side have turned their wholly unfriendly back yard into a fearsome fortress...

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW BY BEN PEARCE

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur

Saturday, 3pm

TOTTENHAM travel to one of the most hostile grounds in the country on Saturday as they take on savage Stoke at Britannia Stadium.


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Tony Pulis's side have turned their wholly unfriendly back yard into a fearsome fortress, and continue to bully some of the league's top sides in the Potteries.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal may all have fought out Premier League victories in Stoke this season, but Tottenham's rivals in the race for the top four have all failed to emulate the title contenders.

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Manchester City and Liverpool were both held 1-1, while Aston Villa had to settle for a goalless stalemate last weekend.

And, while City have so far failed to beat any of the top seven at home in the league, they have eliminated Arsenal and Man City from this season's FA Cup in front of their own fans, triumphing 3-1 on each occasion before succumbing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals.

That ended City's trophy hopes for the season and, currently sitting 10 points above the drop zone, their Premier League status looks secure.

On the surface there appears to be little for Stoke to play for, a possible cause for optimism as Spurs travel north this weekend.

However, currently sitting 11th in the top flight, Pulis will be very aware that the difference between a 10th-place and 15th-place finish amounts to around �3.5million in prize money at the end of the season - the equivalent of a new signing in the summer.

Stoke will be boosted by the return of Ryan Shawcross this weekend. The 22-year-old centre-back, who was included in Fabio Capello's latest England squad, is returning from his three-match ban after infamously breaking Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey's leg three weeks ago.

However, Pulis has decisions to make at the other end of the field as he chooses a strike partner for 6ft 4ins battering ram Mamady Sidibe, who has only scored two goals all season but is a key part of Stoke's aerial and physical threat.

Ricardo Fuller, the leading scorer, has just six goals in all competitions and only one of them has come in the league. Meanwhile, �5m Turkish international Tuncay just netted just five, and reacted angrily to being substituted on Sunday - which may make Pulis's mind up for him.

Ham&High Sport verdict: Apart from the trips to the 'Big Four', this is arguably the toughest away game in the league.

Spurs have been up for the fight this season, as they proved with a notable 2-0 win away at Blackburn Rovers in December. But that result was a surprise, and it will be just as surprising - and impressive - if the Lilywhites triumph this time.

Prediction: 1-1

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