Are Stoke City potential top-four contenders?

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Sport in general is renowned for producing moments of unpredictability, that magical moment that lets you forget about the day job, for most, this is the reason for watching sport. There is nothing better than finishing work or school on a weekday, getting home, and watching some top-quality sport. For some it is cricket, others may prefer boxing, and Americans in particular have a wealth of choices for their entertainment.

While one sport creates more of these moments of magic than any other, it also leaves the opposition fans wondering “what if”. Crystal Palace fans ponder what if Carlos Tevez never signed for West Ham? How about Arsenal fans curious about what might have happened if Nicklas Bendtner had scored his one-on-one with Victor Valdes last March? Football is a worldwide addiction, and these questions are what keeps us hooked.

Thing is; for almost every one of these questions, there is no solution, but there is one that we may soon answer:

“How would Barcelona cope with a winter match at the Britannia Stadium?”

Now, it would be foolish to suggest that FC Barcelona are in danger of dropping into the UEFA Europa League; the extensive injury problems and board-room feuds may prove to be a distraction, but the super-human talents of the fabled triumvirate should hold them steady…

So then, just how will this match-up take place? With just a singular solution left, it is obvious; I am talking about Stoke City reaching the UEFA Champions League, and in the process, gate-crashing the top 4.

Currently occupying 8th place, it is fair to say that this idea is a little far-fetched, even if the gap only stands at six points. Tottenham have a game-in-hand and a resurgent Liverpool are one place higher than the North London club in fifth. However, do any of those clubs have such promising long-term ambitions?

Of course, they aspire to reach the Champions League, but neither meets UEFA’s financial fair play rules as comfortably as Stoke City do, and should Michel Platini follow-through with his threat of banning the clubs that do not abide by the rules; there is every chance that Stoke could get a UEFA Champions League place by default. Such an event is unlikely to say the least, though if the Fair Play rules are as crippling as some were suggesting, it may be to Stoke’s benefit.

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