Stoke City and Crystal Palace face off today in what will be a battle of the unlikely strugglers. A lot was expected of the Potters this season but they have abjectly failed to turn up till now. Mark Hughes has been orchestrating Stoke’s radical change in playing style for a couple of seasons and with the backing in the transfer market this season, there were fans who expected a marginally better finish than last season. But all that seems a long way of now as they travel to the Selhurst Park with the sole aim of getting off the foot of the table. They will be facing an Alan Pardew side who are themselves struggling to string together a team performance of note. But with the new signings gradually getting minutes under their belts, things are looking slightly sunnier for the Eagles and they will be backing themselves when Stoke come calling.
Yohan Cabaye looks likely to miss out with a groin injury with Connor Wickham looking to shake off a minor knock to atleast make the bench. Pape Souare is ruled out following surgery on his jaw and thigh after being involved in a car accident and could be missing for as long as six months according to Pardew. Frazier Campbell (hamstring) remains a doubt but Bakary Sako could make a return to the squad after recovering from a groin injury.
Xherdan Shaqiri is once again ruled out but Glen Johnson and Mame Biram Diouf are back in contention. Jack Butland, Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland remain sidelined, while Jakob Haugaard is a doubt due to an ankle complaint.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1)
Mandanda; Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly; Ledley, McArthur; Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke
STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1)
Given; Johnson; Shawcross; Martins Indi, Pieters; Imbula, Allen; Diouf, Bojan, Arnautovic; Bony
The former Liverpool player is expected to be the missing link for the Eagles and will be hope for a good amount of deliveries from his attacking teammates. The likes of Puncheon, Zaha and Townsend can conjure up inspired moments and Benteke has to be on form to take the chances.
The Austrian hasn’t been firing in the Premier League as of yet and that is basically one of the reasons Stoke have failed to put things together in the final third. With Shaqiri still injured, the mantle will again fall on him to provide thrust in the attacking third. With the new presence of Bony up front, things are expected to take a turn for the better.
This match is a difficult one to predict with similar teams going up against one another with similar issues to deal with. Shaqiri’s absence will make Stoke slightly weaker but Mark Hughes will loathe to yet suffer another defeat.
T4O’s PREDICTION: CRYSTAL PALACE 2- 1 STOKE CITY
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