The FourFourTwo Preview: Stoke vs Swansea
A game of football you say you wouldn’t watch at the bottom of your garden. But you probably would, really.
So it’s not likely to win any prizes for entertainment, but lest we forget that these teams drew 3-3 when they met in November, thanks to Charlie Adam’s 96th-minute penalty in South Wales.
- So'ton 2-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 2-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- S'land 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Chelsea 1–0 Stoke (FAC)
- Palace 1–0 Stoke (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- West Ham 2-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 2–0 Fulham (Prem)
- Birmingham 1–2 Swansea (FAC)
- Swansea 1–3 Spurs (Prem)
With only four points separating 10th-placed Swansea from West Brom in the relegation zone, though, neither of these mid-table merchants will fancy getting sucked into the mire like the bounce-less Baggies did on Saturday.
Stoke are just a point and three places behind the Swans after Saturday’s useful draw at Southampton, in which they twice came from behind to claim a point at St Mary’s. January new boy Peter Odemwingie bagged his first goal since early October, with Peter Crouch adding his fifth of the campaign just before half-time. That they failed to register a shot after the break mattered not, however, as their south-coast rivals mustered only one themselves.
At home it’s a brighter story for Mark Hughes’ men, who have lost just one of their last nine at the Britannia and taken the scalps of Man United and Chelsea along the way. Most impressively, they’ve conceded more than once in only two of their last 12 in Staffordshire.
That bodes well for the visit of Swansea, who romped to a 3-0 win over rivals Cardiff in Garry Monk’s first game in charge on Saturday. The hosts were second best in a dreary first half, but goals after the break from Wayne Routledge, 3ft 6in Nathan Dyer (a HEADER) and Wilfried Bony put paid to the demons of a woeful defeat at West Ham.
That result cost Michael Laudrup his job, and in the meantime 34-year-old Monk is the man entrusted with the reins in South Wales. He wants the job on a full-time basis, but whether he’ll get it depends on him continuing in a similar fashion. First he’ll have to shake up this travel-shy Swans side – they haven’t won on the road since November 23 at Fulham, losing six of their last nine away from the Liberty Stadium. Better get cracking, Garry.
Robert Huth is still out with the knee problem that’s allowed him to watch plenty of Homes Under The Hammer, but on the plus side Stoke could welcome back Marc Wilson (illness), Matthew Etherington (calf), Marko Arnautovic (ankle) and Andy Wilkinson (foot) after injuries.
Swansea lost January signing Marvin Emnes (hamstring) to injury on Saturday, while Jonjo Shelvey (also hamstring) and Michu (ankle) are both sidelined until the weekend at least.
Key battle: Peter Crouch vs Ashley Williams
This game may well be won in the air. And, with Crouch the Premier League’s most prolific ball-winner off the ground (no player has won more than his 168 aerial duels this season, at 65% success), Williams has his work cut out. But if the Swansea skipper repeats Saturday’s display against Cardiff, the visitors stand a chance of snuffing out the threat of Stoke’s 6ft 7in beanpole. Boss Monk hailed his former team-mate after the game, saying: “What a top guy, and what a captain as well. Ash has got standards - he's a fighter.”
Stoke’s Begovic-to-Crouch combination is a well-versed one, while the likes of Erik Pieters and Oussama Assaidi look to regularly supply the former England man from wide areas. There’s no great secret to it, and Williams knows whatever happens he’ll have his hands full.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Swansea 3-3 Stoke (Prem, Nov 13)
- 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)
Hughes, despite having failed to lift Stoke above the level that wasn’t deemed good enough under Tony Pulis, insists he’s happy with the progress Stoke have made under his tutelage. “I felt we were the better side in the first half, albeit we went behind twice during that time,” he said after the draw at St Mary’s. “We showed great character and no little skill to get back on level terms.” You can’t fault his pleasure at the result, but the facts remain: his side have scored two more goals than Pulis’ Stoke had at this stage last season, but conceded 10 more. It’s still a work in progress, and he's likely to be given the time to build “something really special”.
Monk, meanwhile, is out to protect his 100% win rate for as long as possible. Easy.
Facts and figures
- Stoke have lost only 1 of their 13 home games against middle-third teams since the start of last season (W8 D4 L1) as they’ve won 2-1 on 4 occasions.
- Stoke have been level at half-time in 7 of their last 9 home games.
- Swansea have lost to nil in 7 of their 12 away matches this season.
- 12 of Swansea’s 16 trips to bottom-half teams since the start of last season have had fewer than 3 goals.
- Stoke have won this fixture 2-0 in each of the past 2 seasons.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Fortress Britannia to keep out the Swans. 2-1.