So, what do the managers do as we go head to head again one week on from our 3-0 victory over Stoke at the Boleyn? Everybody was clear that survival in the Prem took priority over winning the Gnat's Piss Cup but somehow the Not Won It For Aeon's Cup clouds the issue. Both teams stand on the brink of Wembley, even if we are only talking about losing a semifinal, and the history of THE Cup means that it would be a brave manager indeed who picked a weakened team at this stage. Ferguson did it yesterday but even Wenger went for his first choice eleven!
Until last weekend, Pulis wouldn't have felt any sense of dilemma. Until we thumped them, Stoke stood aloof of the relegation battle, their Premiership survival not secured, but very probable. That all changed last weekend. They have both feet in the quicksand now and can feel the downward pull. They only need two wins to survive and will almost certainly get them, but pressure can do strange things to the head, and so can the prospect of a Cup Final!
Stoke will go for it today regardless, with Pulis picking a full strength team. That means that Kenwyne, Ricardo and Matty will start because Stoke looked much better when this talented triumvirate took to the field last weekend. Pulis will therefore test Avram's tactical nounce to the full. Will Grant set up to compete with the aerial bombardment or will he pick a specialist right back to deal with the threat of Etherington and the more talented tackler in the centre to deal with the trickery of Fuller? I would go with Jacobsen at right back and Tomkins in the middle personally but Grant will be crucified if he does and we come unstuck.
What about Parker and Hitzlsperger? Do we risk them or should Grant protect them, wrapping them up in cotton wool ahead of the game at Tottenham. Parker is carrying an injury already. Remember the game at White Hart Lane last season when Parker started when only 80% fit and came off inside 20 minutes. We were murdered.
And up front, dare Avram risk Ba, or will Obinna get a run out? Obinna has a good record against Stoke so a case can be made for including him offensively. But again, vital inches would be conceded when trying to defend set pieces.
So will it be all change for Wembley or no change at all? Should Avram prioritise the game at Tottenham or go for the Cup without any sense of compromise? I'm glad I don't have to pick the team today because selection is fraught with dangers.