Stoke City v Arsenal: Premier League Match Preview
Stoke City host Arsenal in the Premier League at the bet365 Stadium this afternoon (5.30pm kick-off UK time).
The Gunners came from behind to beat Stoke 3-1 in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium in December – it was a win that put Arsene Wenger’s side top of the table.
Stoke City are in thirteenth place in the Premier League table.
The Potters will be looking to end their home campaign with a win and to record their sixth victory this calendar year.
It has been a largely uneventful season for the Potters.
They have recovered from a poor start to the season to move into relative mid-table safety in the Premier League standings.
The Potters though have had just one win in their past nine top-flight games (D3 L5).
They have 41 points with two matches remaining. Their lowest final points total in a Premier League season is 42 in 2012-13.
Stoke scored their first goals away from home in the Premier League in 629 minutes of action in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth last time out.
Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Southampton at St Mary’s on Wednesday moved the Gunners into fifth place in the Premier League as they chase a top four finish in the table, a point ahead of Manchester United.
Arsenal are now three points behind fourth place Manchester City and four points behind third place Liverpool.
Manchester City can stretch that gap to six points before the Gunners play today if they beat Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium in the early kick-off (12.30pm kick-off UK time).
Liverpool are away to West Ham United at the London Stadium tomorrow (2.15pm kick-off UK time).
Manchester United also play tomorrow, when they take on Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (4.30pm kick-off time).
Before beating the Saints the Gunners had lost five of their last six away league games.
Arsenal have though now won four of their last five league matches.
Their tally of 66 points after 35 matches is two points better than at this stage of last season, when they finished second. They can reach no higher than third in this campaign.
Arsenal haven’t lost any of their last nine away league games in May (W6, D3) since defeat at Stoke in 2011.
Arsenal have won three of the last four meetings between the teams.
However, Stoke City have lost only one of their eight home Premier League matches against Arsenal (W4 D3).
Arsenal’s 12.5% win percentage (one win in eight) at Stoke City is their joint-second worst in the Premier League era, only holding a worse record at Manchester United (three wins in 25, 12%).
Jack Butland has recently returned to the Potters goal after he injured an ankle in England’s 3-2 win in Germany in March 2016.
Peter Crouch has eight Premier League goals against Arsenal, his joint-favourite opponent in the competition along with Blackburn Rovers.
Alexis Sanchez scored his twentieth Premier League goal of the season when he opened the scoring against Southampton on Wednesday. He is the first Arsenal player to score 20 league goals in a season since Robin van Persie in 2011/12.
It was also Sanchez’s 14th away Premier League goal this season.
Mark Hughes is unbeaten in his last eight home Premier League meetings with Arsene Wenger (W5 D3), a run that spreads across five different clubs.
This is what Hughes had to say about facing Arsenal.
“We certainly aren’t fazed by Arsenal, despite them coming into the game on the back of a really strong run of results,” said Hughes.
“I’ve always liked going up against them, as a player and as a manager, because they’re one of the best teams in Europe. They have pace, power and very good technical abilities, so we have to be on the top of our game.
“We like to upset teams who come here and expect to win. When you beat a side who is used to winning, it is more satisfying. Our record stands up with anybody against Arsenal, so we will use that to our advantage.”
This is what Hughes had to say about Stoke’s season and preparing for the next one.
“We’re motivated and aiming to win the last two games, if we do that then we will obviously have high forties on the board and because of the way the league has fallen then that could push us right up.
“The Premier League is incredibly tough and we go out each week with the intention to win every game. We always give our best and if we look at the clubs ahead of us, the difference is resources and finances and strikers who can score 20 plus.
“The be all and end all before I came here was to stay up, but I’ve changed that way of thinking. Naturally, that raises expectation. Most people understand how difficult it is to compete at this level, and we could still finish eighth.
“Sometimes we will fall short of what we want to achieve, but it is not for the want of trying. We are desperate to push forward. We don’t see finishing in the position we are currently in as a trend, we see it as a blip. We will be better next year, I assure you.”
This is what Wenger had to say about facing Stoke.
“Traditionally there is a fierce rivalry and they had always a very direct game against us.
“Overall, I must say as well that they have had good teams. Stoke are now regular participants in the Premier League for years, and that means that anybody who goes there is in trouble.
“We have to show character again. We know we have to play to win the games, so let’s keep the focus on the way we want to play and on our team spirit.”
The Potters have no new injury problems following their draw with Bournemouth in their last Premier League outing, with only long-term absentees Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland sidelined..
Laurent Koscielny missed the match at Southampton on Wednesday with a calf injury and faces a fitness test.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted against Southampton with a hamstring strain but is expected to have recovered..
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: S Long, I Hussin
Fourth official: G Scott
Arsenal to get a 2-1 victory.