Swansea City v Stoke City: Monk relishing 'vital' encounter
Garry Monk views Saturday's Premier League clash with Stoke City at the Liberty Stadium as almost certainly Swansea City's most important game of the season.
A 3-2 victory at Newcastle United last weekend ensured the Welsh club passed their club record tally of 47 points in the Premier League with four games remaining.
Swansea manager Monk has raised the bar in his first full season in charge, but the 36-year-old now has another target in his sights as his eighth-placed side prepare to face a Stoke team just three points behind them in the table.
He said of the visit of Mark Hughes' men: "It is a vital game and probably the most important one of our season. We've been in the top 10 all year and it is important that we consolidate that position.
"There is a real possibility for us to finish eighth and the highest we have ever finished in the Premier League.
"Stoke are a direct opponent, they are only three points behind us and it is a defining game. Mark has done a very good job there and it will be a tough game but one we're really looking forward to."
Stoke will not only draw level with Swansea if they secure an away victory, but also match their best Premier League tally of 50 points and so Hughes stressed this is by no means a meaningless mid-table encounter in his homeland.
"The focus at this time of the year, understandably, is on the top and bottom of the table, but we have our own thing going on in the middle of the table," said the Stoke boss.
"There are only four games of the season remaining now so it is important that we do everything we can to end the season in the way that we are hoping to.
"Swansea have achieved their record Premier League point-haul already and we are looking to do that too; it's something that we have used that as a motivation right the way through the season, and we will keep using that.
"They have progressed once more this season, and under Garry they are still playing some good stuff, but they are arguably more solid at the back and don't leave themselves as exposed as they have in other seasons."
Swansea winger Jefferson Montero will be in contention despite suffering a hamstring injury at Newcastle, while left-back Neil Taylor returns from suspension.
Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam suffered a broken nose in training on Thursday, but is expected to play wearing a mask.
Hughes revealed that Geoff Cameron will be monitored as he is struggling with a hamstring problem, while striker Peter Odemwingie could make another appearance from the bench after making his long-awaited return from a knee injury last weekend.
Adam and Jonathan Walters on target in Stoke's 2-1 win when the two sides met at the Britannia Stadium back in October.