Sports reporter, The Times
What have you made of Stoke this season?
Gary: “It’s fair to say they had a disappointing start to the season. I watched them draw at West Ham in November and they’d started to turn it around, they’d put together a run of wins (they won three on the trot and went six unbeaten in that spell) but if you look since the start of December, they’ve only won three games and lost five. They have also shipped goals away from home - three at Arsenal, where they actually played okay, four at Liverpool and Chelsea - and that makes me think that if Spurs manage to get an early goal, they should really go on to win.”
Below: Stoke's Marko Arnautovic
So a good start could be key for Spurs on Sunday?
Gary: “It looks that way. It may require patience. Stoke don’t score that many away from home (14 in 12) and it could end up being like the Middlesbrough game (a 1-0 win on February 4) although I’d expect Mark Hughes to give it more of a go than Middlesbrough did that day. They have some experienced heads in there, Joe Allen will always do a job, Crouchy, Shawcross, Whelan, Charlie Adam of course. You’d have to say Marko Arnautovic is the main danger, but you aren’t quite sure what you’ll get from him - he’s brilliant one week, quiet the next. Saido Berahino is at Stoke now but he’s hardly played, he’s made a couple of substitute appearances so far, but he could provide some pace. Stoke will be solid, they will be set-up well but I just think Spurs could end up having too much energy and an early goal could prove crucial.”
Below: Joe Allen hits the winner for Stoke at Palace last time out
You know Joe Allen well from your role covering the Wales national team for The Times - how important is he to Stoke?
Gary: “Joe is always very busy and he’ll look to set the tempo for Stoke. He always wants the ball, looks for short passes and breaks things up in front of the back four. He’s a terrier, completely different to Victor Wanyama - it will be interesting to see how that plays out on Sunday. Joe also had a spell earlier in the season when he was scoring goals and he scored again against Palace (the winner in a 1-0 Stoke victory) last time out.”
Below: Peter Crouch brings out his robot celebration after scoring his 100th Premier League goal in Stoke's 1-1 draw against Everton
Finally, we can’t talk about this game without talking about Peter Crouch, who may well line-up for Stoke…
Gary: “I always thought he was completely underrated with the ball at his feet. His combination with Rafa van der Vaart in the 2010-11 season at Spurs was a joy to watch, with Luka Modric playing in behind. That was a 4-4-1-1 system with ‘split strikers’, the vogue system at the time with Rafa dropping in the hole. It just shows you how the game changes with the systems we’re seeing now. It’s a tribute to Crouchy that he’s still playing regularly in the Premier League at 36, and he’s just been given a new contract. He’s always been completely unselfish as a striker, it was never about him, always about the team and he has that sense of humility about him that’s always nice to see. Whenever he goes back to former clubs he always gets a good reception and that’s another sign of what fans think about him, and I’m sure it will be the same on Sunday.”