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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Stoke defence 'Europe's best' - Villas-Boas

Andre Villas-Boas has said that Stoke City have the "best defence in Europe", and that he greatly respects Tony Pulis's side.

• Blog: Record-breakers hold firm

While the Tottenham Hotspur manager's comments have to be put in the context of his team's 0-0 draw on Saturday and any attempt to cover his own team's flaws, there are statistics that back up the assertion.

For one, the game at White Hart Lane was Stoke's ninth clean sheet of the season. As well as the highest number in the Premier League, it also ensured they still have the best defensive record in the division with only 13 goals conceded. In Europe's major leagues, only Malaga (12), Juventus (11) and Bayern Munich (seven) have conceded fewer.

"If it was easy then Stoke wouldn't have the best defence in Europe," Villas-Boas said. "They've proven that there's no space behind [their defence], they're well organised, they do well on the counter and through crosses and they are taller than you. When you play through passes, they outnumber you.

"It's not easy and the results they have been getting prove that.

"I admire other types of football, you have to respect them. They concede the initiative to the opponent. It's not easy when you give so much possession to the opponent and you have to defend but all credit to them and their work.

"I totally respect Stoke. What they have achieved this season is tremendous because it gives credit to Tony Pulis's work. You don't expect to play Stoke and for them to take the game easily."

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