Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas says Stoke have one of the best defences in Europe

Stoke visit White Hart Lane on Saturday

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has warned his strikers they will have to be at the top of their game against Stoke tomorrow as they will be lining up against one of the best defences in Europe.

Stoke are big underdogs for tomorrow's Barclays Premier League clash at White Hart Lane despite the fact they travel to London on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run.

Villas-Boas raised a few eyebrows yesterday when he described the Potters defence as "among the best in Europe", but as per usual, it turns out the Spurs boss has done his research.

Of the top seven leagues in Europe, only seven teams - Paris St Germain, St Etienne, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Malaga, Benfica and Porto - have a better defensive record than Stoke this season. Excellent performances from the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Asmir Begovic mean Stoke's record of conceding 13 goals in 17 games is better than that of European heavyweights Real Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax, not to mention the rest of the Barclays Premier League.

Although their footballing mantras could not be further apart, Villas-Boas has nothing but the utmost respect for the solid unit Pulis has built at the Britannia Stadium.

"They have been having an amazing year among the best defences in Europe so it will certainly be a very hard game," Villas-Boas said.

"They are a good, solid, organised team and they have a manager who has a specific philosophy that they have been very successful with.

"They believe in their football and they believe in what they do.

"Aesthetics can differ. You can interpret their game in one way and I can do it in another, but all of us respect it - because it is successful for them.

"They've been extremely successful in the Premier League so I compliment them for that.

"Tony has in some ways transformed the fortunes of Stoke. They are a competitive team, a really hard team to beat and it's not going to be easy for us."

Spurs are on a decent run of form themselves having won five of their last six matches.

Villas-Boas knows the festive period - when Spurs take on Aston Villa, Sunderland, Reading and QPR - could prove crucial to attaining his target of a top-four finish.

The Portuguese received a timely boost this week with the return of injury victims Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Scott Parker, who came off the bench for his first appearance under Villas-Boas last weekend.

The England man could be brought in to beef up Tottenham's midfield against the Potters, is expecting a difficult encounter against Pulis' team.

"It will be a tough game," Parker told Tottenham's website.

"We all know what Stoke will bring to White Hart Lane and how they play.

"They are a well-organised team and Tony Pulis is well known for that, his organisation is different class.

"Individually, they've got some good players and as a team, they are a tough team to break down. "We'll have to be at our best and I'm sure we'll do what we need to do to get the three points to continue our run."

The Potters travel to White Hart Lane with three Spurs alumni in their squad - Matthew Etherington, Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch.

Crouch, who left Spurs for Stoke at the start of last season, has fallen out of favour with Pulis in recent weeks, but Villas-Boas reckons the towering striker could be recalled for tomorrow's game.

Villas-Boas said: "Recently Crouch hasn't played, but that doesn't mean Tony can't use the fact that he played here, knows the stadium and the players well against us.

"Crouch is a player that is well-respected as a goalscorer."

PA

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