Stoke City vs Swansea City Preview:
The Potters will be back in action at The Bet365 Stadium this weekend, to face Paul Clement`s struggling Swansea City. The Welsh side are without a win in this competition since mid-October, when they beat Premier League new boys, Huddersfield Town by two goals to nil at The Liberty stadium. The Swans have only registered two wins all season, which leaves them sat in the penultimate position of the table. Yet a lack of consistency sees the Potters just four points and three places above the visitors to the potteries this weekend, and the home crowd will be expectant following a heavy home defeat to Liverpool in mid-week.
Mark Hughes` men slumped to a 3-0 defeat, with a late brace from Liverpool sub, Mohamed Salah finishing off proceedings, following Sadio Mané`s neat opener in the first half. The home side had many reasons to feel aggrieved with the score line though, as Liverpool stopper, Simon Mignolet should arguably have been shown a straight red card for his rash challenge on Mame Biram Diouf outside of the box. Former Merseyside-man, Joe Allen then had two clear-cut chances inside the box to slot Stoke into the lead, but a lack of clinical finishing meant that it was Liverpool who could further extend their lead through their 67th minute substitute, Salah.
After a three-match unbeaten run starting at the end of October, the Potters will be looking to avoid three straight defeats when the Swans come to town. A loss for either side would surely pile on the pressure for their respective managers, with wins and points hard to come by, and the Festive fixtures edging ever closer and only five more matches until the mid-way point of the season.
Throughout this shaky season, Xherdan Shaqiri has remained the shining light for Stoke City, and looks the likely game-changer ahead the Swans clash. Shaqiri has been individually successful, having being involved with more goals in thirteen competitive matches, than in 21 appearances last season. The run has seen the Swiss net three goals and assist five, including a consolation goal in the Potters last away-day defeat to Crystal Palace.
Jack Butland is expected to be out of action at least until Christmas, with a broken finger that he suffered a few weeks ago whilst training with the England National team. Lee Grant will continue his run between the sticks in his absence.
The Swansea manager has cited this weekend`s game as a "cup final" for his squad, such as the magnitude in his pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon. Clement has also confirmed that he will not be making an "major changes" to his squad ahead of the match, though Chelsea-loanee, Tammy Abraham will be available for selection again after being ineligible against his parent club, Chelsea in midweek. Swans frontman, Wilfred Bony has already been fielded twice this week, so it is likely that the England starlet will slot into the starting line up ahead of him. The pair have only been picked together competitively twice this season.