'Home comfort' a timely boost for Tottenham

Spurs return to a familiar White Hart Lane seeking win to leapfrog second-placed City

LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur will be keen to move on from their embarrassing Europa League exit when they host Stoke City at White Hart Lane today.

They managed only a 2-2 draw with Gent - a side lying eighth in the Belgian top flight - at Wembley on Thursday as they crashed out of the continent's second-tier tournament 3-2 on aggregate.

The familiar surroundings of White Hart Lane - where they have been unbeaten all season - should be a boost as Mauricio Pochettino's side know that victory could leave them second in the English Premier League table.

With neither Manchester United nor Manchester City in action this weekend due to the League Cup final and Liverpool not playing until tomorrow, today's game represents a good opportunity for Tottenham, who are third in the table - two points behind second-placed City - to steal a march on their rivals.

A win could even help them narrow the gap with leaders Chelsea, who were 10 points ahead of them before this weekend's round of Premier League matches.

  • ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

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    Chelsea 3 Swansea 1

    Crystal Palace 1 Middlesbrough 0

    Everton 2 Sunderland 0

    Hull 1 Burnley 1

    West Brom 2 Bournemouth 1

    Watford v West Ham

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    Tottenham v Stoke City

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"We need to move on and forget (the defeat in the Europa League) and try to be focused on Sunday, and ready to fight because the (Premier League) doesn't wait for you," said Pochettino.

"It always pushes you to give your best. Now is not the time to cry, but to move on."

Tottenham do not have any new injury concerns, with Danny Rose and Erik Lamela their only absentees.

Pochettino must decide whether to stick with a back three which includes Eric Dier or revert to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation which could see forward Son Heung Min return to the side.

Striker Harry Kane, who has 10 goals in his last 10 games for Tottenham, is expected to lead the line, while midfielder Dele Alli is likely to start despite his straight red card in midweek.

Tottenham were outplayed 2-0 at Liverpool in their last league outing. However, it is hard to see Mark Hughes' Stoke troubling a home side looking to avoid back-to-back top-flight defeats for the first time since their collapse at the end of last season.

Hughes, however, does have a wild card in striker Saido Berahino, who is set to make his first Stoke start since his move from West Bromwich Albion last month.

The visitors have lost just one of their six Premier League matches this year.

But what would be of concern to Hughes is that they have lost four of their last five league games on the road.

"The key to the game on Sunday is to start brightly and get a foothold in the game. Hopefully we will be sharp from the off," said Hughes.

"They are a strong side, they are very impressive at home and we will be up against it. We are in good shape."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

TOTTENHAM V STOKE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline ''Home comfort' a timely boost for Tottenham'. Print Edition | Subscribe