Stoke City Away - Sunday 18:15 @ Brazenhead in Fourways, Leaping Frog Centre

0 votes

There was a time when Stoke were regarded as the ultimate thugs of the Premier League. Reference to Orcs and their leader Tony ‘Pubis’ were quite common from certain sectors of the Arsenal blog brigade, but this has slowly changed until now we find a team that has the likes of ex-Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic, Swiss International and ex-Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri and Austrian International and ex-Werder Bremen forward Marko Arnautovic. They still have a sprinkle of the ugly with Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross gracing the teamsheet however Mark Hughes is a different animal to Tony Pulis and he has put together a footballing side that any team would be foolish to disregard, especially at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke find themselves in 7th position in the league and their home form is chequered to say the least. They like to beat the big teams (Chelsea?, City and United have failed to return from Stoke with a point) but then go and throw it all away against the less fancied teams (Palace, West Brom, Watford & Liverpool Jall taking home 3 points). Arsenal are a good bet when it comes to playing Stoke at home, with the last time Stoke managing to take points from us being 1981/1982 however it’s a completely different situation at the Britannia! We managed a couple of draws back in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons but you have to go as far back as 27th Feb 2010 when Arsenal reversed an FA Cup fourth round loss earlier that year in January to complete a 3 – 1 victory in the league. That was the infamous match where Ramsey had his leg broken, and we’ve never won there since.

So what does Sunday’s game hold in store for us? We know that Wednesday’s match was quite a furious effort against Liverpool wit Mesut Ozil saying on Twitter “There was no time to blink during the match!.....”. How that game has affected us, I’m not too sure. The fact that we came back from being a goal down twice was heartening, but the late, late equaliser that Liverpool scored must surely have disheartened a few of our players. I know it did for most of the supporters, thank god Spurs managed a home defeat to lift the mood. But there are positives on the horizon. Wenger has teased us this week by saying that Sanchez has a chance of being in the squad for Sunday as too does our new shiny signing Elneny. And I believe they will be a welcome addition as Flamini is not as young as he used to be and although he has been part of the rotation, playing against Newcastle and Liverpool will surely have sucked some of the stamina from his loins whilst Walcott was pretty much a spare part against Liverpool and bringing Sanchez in could be an alternative. Based on Wednesday’s game, I’d be more inclined to keep Joel on the pitch and let Walcott start on the bench. My feeling however is that they’ll both start and Sanchez will be warming the bench.

Looking at the stats, I really don’t see too much in this match. Stoke have had to play that extra game recently where they lost their home leg Capital One Cup semi-final against Liverpool on Tuesday last week and that may be a deciding factor. However they did not have to put out a strong team in the FA Cup as their opponents were middle of the table, League One team Doncaster Rovers. So, maybe a draw or maybe the magic of Mesut will bring us a victory, he is due an assist or two having been barren on Wednesday.

Looking further afield, what are the other top four or five teams up against. Citeh have a visit from Palace and both these sides must be disappointed with their mid-week efforts. Palace lost at Villa, a rare occurrence being Villa’s second win of the season whereas Citeh drew a blank at home to Everton with a 0-0 draw. Leicester visit Villa, and both of these teams would have been elated with their mid-week results. I’m not sure whether Villa deserved their win, whether Palace threw it away or whatever but Leicester fans must be a little nervous of a Villa revival. Spurs are at home to Sunderland and Spurs are hitting that ‘Spurs phase’ where they have set themselves up nicely through the first half of the season and are now undoing all that good work with some poor home results. Losses to both Newcastle and Leicester at home have meant that they have fallen off the pace and are currently sitting 7 points off the top. Sunderland had a great result at Swansea and Defoe must be licking his lips at this encounter. And finally, it’s West Ham and not MFU that fill the fifth spot, one point behind Spurs. They enjoyed a good 3 – 1 victory at Bournemouth after going 1 – 0 down early on. They have their own little magician in Dimitri Payet and I think they’re good money to finish ahead of MFU for that final European qualifying spot. They have a tricky visit to Newcastle who are inconsistent to say the least. I thought they would beat MFU but only managed a draw and that may well be the same result this weekend.

The game is the last match on Sunday at 6:15pm. The turnout at the club on Wednesday was amazing, I don’t think I’ve seen it so busy mid-week at that time for a very long time, so maybe we can do the same again on Sunday. We will know what we need to do before the game starts as both Leicester and Citeh play on Saturday so why don’t y’all c’mon down to The Brazenhead and have yourselves some fun?