Arsenal visit the Potteries in the Saturday tea-time fixture for a clash that has begun to haunt the nightmares of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans alike.
You would have to go back to Febuary 2010 – the match of the infamous Aaron Ramsay leg break – to find the last instance of Arsenal winning away at Stoke. Since then Arsenal have only managed three draws and three losses at the Britannia.
For Arsenal, this fixture comes as an unwelcome end to a busy week, cramming in three fixtures – two comfortable 2-0 wins over United and Southampton thus far – over six days in a frantic attempt to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
Currently three points adrift of City and Wenger’s coveted top-4 trophy, this game is a must win fixture for the Gunners.
With Alexis Sanchez hitting an end of season purple patch and a fresh and newly fit Danny Welbeck finding goals, Arsenal will be confident of a result – and with Liverpool’s tricky trip to West Ham on Sunday they will be hoping to place some psychological pressure on their rivals.
Stoke; sitting in their familiar mid-table berth, will have had a slightly more relaxed build up to this fixture. They managed to arrest their recent run of poor form and guarantee their Premier League status last weekend with an impressive 2-2 draw away at Bournemouth – ending a run of 6 away games without a goal.
However, it is their home record that is largely responsible for where they currently sit in the table, having only lost 5 times (of which 4 have been to the current top 4) and racking up a solid 27 points. All that’s lacking is a big scalp to send the Stoke faithful into the summer on a high.
Last time out, Arsenal bounced back from a Charlie Adam penalty early on to win 3-1, with Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil putting in some stand out performances as Arsenal, so fleetingly, looked like title challengers.
With the circumstances of the table much changed as we reach the final hurdle of the season, expect a competitive, physical and at times nervy game which both sides will be determined to win.
Written by Fabian Wood.
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