The FourFourTwo Preview: Swansea vs Stoke
Michael Laudrup's wounded Swans vs Mark Hughes' ugly ducklings.
Last weekend brought differing emotions for these two clubs' goalkeepers.
- Kuban 1-1 Swansea (EL)
- Cardiff 1-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Kuban (EL)
- Swansea 4-0 S'land (Prem)
- Stoke 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- B'ham p4-4 Stoke (LC)
- Man Utd 3-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 0-0 WBA (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
Just under 26 hours after Stoke's Asmir Begovic half-heartedly celebrated giving the Potters a first-minute lead over Southampton, Swansea's Michel Vorm was trudging off the Cardiff City Stadium pitch, having been dismissed in the dying minutes of the first ever top-flight South Wales derby.
Although it's unlikely Begovic will heed Stoke fans' inevitable calls to test Swans stand-in Gerhard Tremmel from 120 yards, that difference in fortunes will likely have some bearing on the mood of the teams going in to Sunday's match.
The Potters will be content and confident, having frustrated Southampton in their 1-1 draw. Hughes' team restricted the high-lying Saints to just 10 shots at goal, their fewest in a league match since the opening day of the season and significantly fewer than the 18 the Hampshire side managed at Old Trafford in their last away game.
Swansea, meanwhile, will be feeling rather frail after a defeat that bruised pride and morale, if not bodies. Although a home game against a side who have scored just four goals in seven league matches may seem the ideal tonic, Stoke still aren't the team you want rolling into town when you're feeling sorry for yourself.
After all, only Manchester United and Arsenal have managed to breach the Potters' defence more than once so far this term, and the Swans have won just once in their previous 10 Premier League home matches - and that was against Sunderland, so it barely even counts...
The Swans will be without the suspended keeper Vorm, though German deputy Tremmel is a more than capable replacement. More concerning will be the loss of Michu, who could be out for as long as a month with an ankle injury. Alan Tate (hamstring), Gary Monk (knee) and Pablo Hernandez (thigh) remain doubts.
Stoke's only worry - at least as far as injuries are concerned - is Andy Wilkinson's knee, although the full-back is reported to be nearing a return to fitness having made only one league appearance this season.
Player to watch: Wilfried Bony (Swansea)
It's safe to say the partnership of Bony and Michu hasn't quite sparked to life as drastically as was touted in pre-season. The Ivorian has scored just twice in the league (once from open play), with the Spaniard, despite earning his first national call-up, also with just two goals to his name (he had six at this time last year).
Yet despite these figures, the Swans have generally looked a far better team with both players in the side - as opposed to Michu as a lone striker and Wilfried sat on his Bony backside on the bench.
Up until Michu limped off at Cardiff, the Spaniard had played every minute of the Swans' Premier League campaign. So that last 30 minutes or so was Bony's first taste of the competition without Michu by his side (or, more accurately, about 20 yards behind him).
Bony didn't see too much of the ball in dangerous areas during this spell, even though Swansea enjoyed a fair amount of possession as they chased an equaliser. Cardiff were able to nullify him, and Stoke's defence will fancy they can do the same. Now's the time for Bony to prove his worth.
Last five meetings
- Swansea 3-1 Stoke (Prem, Jan 13)
- Stoke 2-0 Swansea (Prem, Sep 12)
- Stoke 2-0 Swansea (Prem, Feb 12)
- Swansea 2-0 Stoke (Prem, Oct 11)
- Stoke 1-2 Swansea (Div2, Mar 01)
The only previous meeting between Hughes and Laudrup was the Dane's first Premier League match - a Michu-inspired 4-0 win at the Welshman's doomed QPR on the opening day of last season. Laudrup has spent a lot of this season moaning, most recently about fixture congestion, so they may get along better than you'd initially expect...
Facts and figures
- Three of the last 4 league games between Swansea and Stoke have ended as 2-0 home wins.
- Stoke’s away wins in 2013 have coincided with their clean sheets on the road (2 games).
- Swansea have gone 208 minutes without conceding a league goal at home.
- No Stoke player has more league goals than goalkeeper Asmir Begovic this season (1).
- Angel Rangel is one of only 2 outfield players in Europe’s top five leagues to make a save this season.
- This game pits together 2 of the 4 Premier League teams yet to score a headed goal this season.
- Swansea’s Álex Pozuelo is the most used substitute in the Premier League this season (8 times).
- The Liberty Stadium is the only Premier League ground yet to see a headed goal this season.
- Stoke haven't won any of their last 7 league games - the joint-longest winless run in the Premier League with Crystal Palace.
- Stoke have lost 10 of their last 14 league away games.
- There have been 3 or more goals in 8 of Swansea’s previous 9 home matches against bottom-six sides.
- The Swans have opened the scoring in 8 of their last 11 encounters with bottom-six teams.
- In each of the last four league games between these sides, the home side has won by 2 goals.
- Away against middle-third teams, Stoke have lost 10 of their last 14 and conceded first in 11 of their last 19.
- The Potters have had fewer than 3 goals in 16 of their last 22 away games, with fewer than 2 goals in 12 of those.
Swansea to fail to score for a third game running, but Stoke to suffer a sixth 'lock-out' of the season. 0-0.