The Opposition – Stoke City
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 11, 2016
This weekend’s game at the Britannia stadium is a huge fixture. Stoke are two points above Southampton and with a win they will create a five point gap between themselves and the Saints. On top of that, if Stoke win then they will move another place up the table overtaking Liverpool who don’t have a game this weekend. So, this game is hugely important for both teams. Southampton need a win to overtake Stoke and it will also push them right back into the heart of the Europa League race and give the side a huge boost.
I spoke to Eddie (@eddie_bradbury) a Stoke fan and he gave me lowdown on the Potters.
Stoke’s Team News
Mark Hughes admits a defensive selection dilemma ahead of the weekends game against Southampton. Stoke Captain Ryan Shawcross could be involved but Mark Hughes admits that he’s not sure if he should rush him straight into the starting XI so soon after injury.
What has Stoke’s form been like recently?
We have built a solid foundation to build on for the rest of the season in our last few games. We had a disastrous spell towards the end of Jan/start of Feb losing 3-0 three games on the bounce to Leicester, UTD & Everton. However since then we have booked our ideas up with victories over Bournemouth, Villa & Newcastle respectively. At the weekend we saw one of Stoke’s standout performances of the season, as we nullified Chelsea’s attack well and missed a few great chances that could easily have won us the game.
Who are Stoke’s key men at the moment?
Shaqiri seems to have settled in the team, performing very well at Bournemouth and against Villa, & also got a goal against Newcastle. He can torment full backs with his combined trickery & power, & offers a great final ball. Has only made 5 assists this season; however Stoke have been very wasteful this season & Shaqiri has provided 45 total chances.
Arnautovic – In my opinion our player of the season, he has massively stepped up to the plate this season and has been very consistent. He has bagged nine goals and 4 assists in 25 games. On his day he is unstoppable as he has shown against City at home where he scored both goals. He has also won us games against Villa (twice), Everton & Chelsea to name a few. He is not afraid to go deep to collect the ball or make runs in behind the defence, & we have seen this combination numerous times with him and Shaqiri as they continue to form a great relationship.
Imbula – he only arrived at the end of January but Stoke fans are already delighted with what he is contributing to the team. He scored a great volley away at Bournemouth showcasing his tremendous technical abilities. He also has great physical abilities and some are already comparing him to Yaya Toure. I do not blame them as he really looks the part, & he performed 8 take ons away to Stamford Bridge at the weekend, the most in the premier league. Although he broke our transfer record at £18.3m, I am sure that this will have been a bargain for the club.
What are Stoke’s weaknesses?
Unfortunately all the injuries we are getting at the moment have mostly been to our defenders, with Shawcross, Cameron, Johnson, Muniesa & Bardsley all on the injury list recently. Although some are now back in action, it has caused us to chop and change on numerous occasions, & so we haven’t been able to keep the same defence & create a good understanding between the back 4. This played a part in our 3 back to back 3-0 defeats, which saw Johnson having to switch to CB at Old Trafford. We were that thin in defence a few weeks ago that Diouf was used as an emergency right back in the game against Bournemouth!
You cannot underestimate what Whelan has done for the club & he has been a great vice captain with the absence of Ryan Shawcross. However, if he has a bad game it is easy to tell. He offers great anticipation as he sits in front of the back four, however he can be very laboured and players run past him like he is not there at times.
We have not been able to play with a consistent ST this season, & I’m not convinced that Hughes even knows who our first choice ST should be. He has even changed our system in some games due to this, playing Bojan in the false 9 role.
It is a must win game for Stoke if they want to continue their challenge for European football. Finding momentum just in time for the final run in, it is a good time to be playing a good team in Southampton. I believe that if our best players can produce a good performance collectively, we have a great chance of winning this game. The home crowd could also play a part as they understand the importance of the game. However, Southampton find themselves in a similar predicament to us, as we both need to get wins on the board to keep European football within our grasps. My prediction – Stoke 1 – 0 Southampton
I would like to thank Eddie for his time to help with this Article, be sure to check him out on Twitter @eddie_bradbury and find his articles on www.fromthestands.co.uk in the Stoke section.