Stoke City vs Crystal Palace
Venue: Bet365 Stadium
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Stoke City face their Judgement Day as they host Crystal Palace in the early kick-off on Saturday. Anything other than a win for Stoke will effectually seal their fate for life in the Championship and see their 10 year stay in the Premier League, become a distant memory.
They will have to overcome a Crystal Palace side who all but confirmed their Premier League status last week in a 5-0 drumming of Leicester City. Roy Hodgson and his team were written off early on in the season but have turned things around to currently sit 11th in the table with 38 points, six points above the relegation zone with two games left.
Stoke City on the other hand are hanging on the edge, losing grip over the past weeks by throwing away leads against West Ham and Burnley as well as not taking chances, one more slip and they’re gone. On 30 points, 3 from safety with an inferior goal difference, the likes of Huddersfield, Swansea, West Ham and Southampton are looking to banish the Potters to the Championship by gaining 3 points themselves.
The position the second oldest English club find themselves in is so precarious that they rely on numerous other teams failing to pick up points. They need the following; Huddersfield losing their final three games against Man City, Chelsea, and Arsenal, by a couple of goals each which doesn’t seem too farfetched. Bournemouth and Everton to defeat Swansea and Southampton this weekend and then both latter sharing the points when they go head-to-head at the Liberty Stadium next Tuesday. Arguably, the most difficult task ahead of the Potters is to record two consecutive wins in the Premier League, which they have not done this Premier League season and the final victory would be against relegation rivals, Swansea. The potters can’t rely on luck to prevent them from being relegated after the match or by the end of the day.
On top of the impeccable performance last week, Palace will get a boost knowing that the former England manager is staying on for another season and the team will want to prove themselves before the summer transfer window. Also, players like Benteke will want to build on their confidence from the previous game and won’t let up on what must be a nervous and tense Stoke side. Despite Palace not being mathematically safe, Roy has spoken of his pride at the likelihood of keeping the club in the Premier League and is unsure of where it ranks in his career’s achievements. After 11 games, the Eagles only had 4 points and Hodgson discussed how was pleased with their recovery, “I am actually quite proud of what the players have achieved for this club, the way they have accepted all the things that have been thrown at us, the injuries, the misfortune in one or two games when we have played so well”.
The mood in the Stoke camp is the complete opposite with Lambert highlighting the importance of the game, “I think it’s clear for everybody – we have to win. It is a must-win game. We know we are playing well. I have got no doubt we can win [the last two games], we just need to be clinical at the top end when we do have a chance”. Even Xherdan Shaqiri has announced that the team could be heroes and will need 11 heroes on the pitch. Unfortunately, heroes don’t always triumph in the face of adversity.
Bruno Martins-Indi has joined Choupo-Moting and Staffylidis on the injury list and won’t be available. Jese has been give unpaid compassionate leave until the season effectively ending his loan. Glen Johnson could make a return after sitting out at Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson will have the same selections from his squad as last week, with Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham all being unavailable.
The Eagles have become a bit of a bogey side for the Potters as they’ve lost 6 of 9 Premier League games to Palace. The odds are not in favour of Lambert either who has only won 1 of 4 Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace, being goalless in 3. With Stoke being renowned for throwing away leads under Lambert, the fact Palace are the highest scoring team in the 90th minute or later, with 6, it means it won’t be a comfortable ending to match for Stoke fans. Wilfred Zaha has been involved in 5 goals in his last 4 games, scoring 4 and assisting 1. Whereas Shaqiri has not scored or assisted in the last 8 games despite leading the way in goal involvements for the Potters this season.
Stoke must go for this match with everything they have but unfortunately under Lambert, they have been doing just that and failing to win. Palace may step off the pace after basically securing Premier League football however, they have no pressure on them and are playing considerably well. It’ll be a close contest and could set up for an amazing spectacle in the last round of the season or it could confirm one of the Championships new teams by the end of the match.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Stoke City: Butland, Johnson, Zouma, Shawcross, Pieters, Allen, Ndaiye, Shaqiri, Bauer, Diouf, Crouch
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins, M. Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Loftus-Cheek, Townsend, Zaha
Predicted Score: Stoke City 1 – 1 Crystal Palace
Written by Andy Ridgway.
Project Engineer at Rolls Royce. Unfortunately, born a Stoke City fan but wouldn’t have it any other way.