It’s Christmas, and if you make me sit through even the suggestion of a commentator saying ‘Stoke is a tough place to go in the cold on a Wednesday night’, I will absolutely cancel the New Year.
However, rarely has the thought of not getting a result in Stoke midweek felt so Armageddon-like for anyone as it would do for Jose Mourinho and his Spurs team whose promising season has fallen flat in recent weeks. In a sad state of affairs, or a decade-long throwback – whichever way you want to look at it – Spurs now have to go Trentside and get a result. There is nothing this year won’t throw at you, honestly.
Stoke v Tottenham – Carabao Cup Quarter-Final
Wednesday December 23, 5.30pm. Sky Sports Football
We know a fair chunk about Spurs, but what are Stoke up to? Well, they’re managed by Mick O’Neill of Shamrock Rovers and Northern Ireland fame and they’ve more clean sheets than a department store. No, genuinely – they’ve not conceded a goal in six of their last seven games in the Championship. And they’ll be giving Spurs the ball, too.
We all know what happens when Spurs are forced to create. Could this actually be a case where the old adage comes true?
Mourinho has two modes of success: when everything is going well, and when everything is threatening to fall apart. He’ll not be above a cynical red card in Stoke on Wednesday night. Some might see that as petty; I see it as pragmatic and I kind of love him for it.
They’ll go to Stoke and put out a full team, knowing full well that he has to win this trophy to cover up their poor form of December so far.
Spurs’ abject failures will come to the fore in embarrassing fashion in some way or the other – don’t get me wrong. And I feel like either conceding early or in comical style late on will be the representation of Mourinho’s foundations crumbling around him, even if he’s in the hat for the last four.
For all that they’re solid, Stoke haven’t scored more than once in a month and their innovation in the final third is about as mundane as you can imagine.
I mean, it just kind of fits doesn’t it? Wheel James McClean on the do a man-marking job on the opposition wingers and absolutely take one out as they fly past him late on.
It’s become his primary use in the Irish squad, and that’s an Irish squad that hasn’t scored a goal since Italia ’90.
There’s something very Christmassy about James McClean pleading his innocence as Gareth Bale has his stud mould hanging out of his leg.
Have a good one, folks.
Stoke v Tottenham tips
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change
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