Tottenham Hotspur visit Stoke City on a cold rainy December evening as they look to advance towards their first trophy in twelve long years.
Tottenham’s Jose Mourinho has a special connection with the League Cup, now known as the Carabao Cup, in his managerial career in England. The Portuguese tactician has won it 4 times and has been handed a kind draw in his first attempt at the competition with Spurs.
Tottenham, who were tipped to be part of a surprising Premier League title race, have lost their previous two games and have found themselves slip to 6th place. They would be hoping to get their season back on track as soon as possible with a commanding win in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals against Stoke City.
After a poor 2019/20 campaign, when they finished in the bottom half of the Championship, the Potters are placed 7th and are just 2 points off the playoff spots. Stoke City have also impressively defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa in the previous rounds of this very competition.
Michael O’Neill’s side have only lost once in their last 7 games and have only conceded in one game, keeping an impressive 6 clean sheets in the last 7 games. However, they have only scored 4 goals in that process and do look like lacking the cutting edge offensively.
It will be unlikely for this match to be a goal-fest as two defensively stellar teams go head to head in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the bet365 Stadium.
Team News & Tactics
Michael O’Neill has a host of injuries coming into this game. Tyrese Campbell, who already has 11 goals to his name this term, has been sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Lee Gregory and Sam Clucas are also expected to be out till the end of the year at least, while John Obi Mikel, too, joins them on the sidelines.
Stoke City are most hit in the goalkeeping department as Adam Davies, Angus Gunn and the emergency recruit free-agent Niki Maenpaa have all picked up injuries one by one. Josef Bursik, too, cannot play for Stoke City in this competition due to his late transfer.
O’Neill confirmed in his press conference that 19-year-old Blondy Nna Noukeu will compete for the goalkeeping with the 37-year-old veteran in Andy Lonergan. Youngsters, Nathan Collins and Harry Souttar are expected to start in a vital league cup quarter-final and take some experience from it. They will be accompanied by the experienced James Chester in defence.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 22, 2020
Tom Ince and James McClean are expected to operate on either wing, with Stoke’s top scorer, Sam Vokes, set to lead the line. Steven Fletcher, who started in the win against Blackburn is expected to sit this one out.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Nna Noukeu; Fox, Chester, Souttar, Collins; Tymon, Cousins; McClean, Powell, Ince; Vokes
Brentford’s win over Newcastle is testimony to that fact that Tottenham cannot afford to take the Stoke City lightly. Mourinho’s lineup could also reflect this very notion. The gaffer has used the Europa League as a good area to test out new shapes and personnel. And he is likely to play a second-string side with a few key ones to remain.
Giovani Lo Celso picked up a nasty knock in the match versus Leicester and is expected to be ruled out. Japhet Tanganga joins Le Celso on the sidelines, while Erik Lamela provides some joy with his return from injury.
Matt Doherty is expected to replace Serge Aurier after his howler at the weekend, while Joe Hart returns in goal. With Joe Rodon ineligible to play in the Carabao Cup, Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier are expected to play in central defence. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could start yet another game alongside Harry Winks who looked pretty decent in his little cameo versus Leicester City.
Gareth Bale is expected to start from the right after his return from illness, while Dele Alli and Vinicius Junior could be handed rare starts too in this match. Either of Lucas Moura or Steven Bergwijn could be deployed from the other wing.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Doherty, Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Winks, Hojbjerg; Bale, Alli, Lucas; Vinicius
- The previous and only League Cup meeting between the two clubs came in 2011 where after a goalless draw, Stoke progressed by winning 7-6 on penalties.
- Spurs have won their last 5 matches versus Stoke City in the Premier League, four of which were by a four-goal margin.
- Stoke City are the first side to have started the competition in the first round and reach the quarter-final without conceding a single goal.
- Only Arsenal, 29, have played more League Cup quarter-finals than Spurs who play their 25th versus Stoke City.
- Spurs’ last three League Cup matches have all gone to a penalty shootout (W1, L2). The only team to be involved in a penalty shootout for four consecutive games were Leicester City between September 2018 and August 2019.
Player to Watch
Although a start for the young Englishman looks difficult, it would certainly be the right thing to do by Jose Mourinho. If Alli does get the start that he so needs, he must seize the opportunity with both hands and make a notable contribution to the game.
A player with tremendous potential, Alli needs to find his feet again. It is for him to decide whether that is at Tottenham or elsewhere, but Dele should act smart and fast. Should he be given an opportunity versus Stoke, a big performance from him can be expected as he looks to send a message across to his boss.
Stoke City 1-3 Tottenham
Tottenham are winless in three games, but this is a competition that belongs to no other than Jose Mourinho, hence a positive result for Spurs can be expected. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we predict that Stoke could take the initial lead, but Tottenham will make a comeback and add to their tally to finish comfortable victors.