Stoke City continued to drop down the table as they were held to a blank by Southampton in the midweek clash. The Potters will host Premier League defending champions Leicester City in the weekend and a win here could take Hughes’ men to the top half of the table.
Given Stoke’s home record this season, the Potters are definitely not the favourites to win the match. However, the game will boil down to certain individuals, which might decide the end result.
Here are three key duels, where the games might be won or lost.
Islam Slimani vs Ryan Shawcross
It was quite surprising to see Leicester’s last season hero Jamie Vardy fading so fast. The England striker isn’t even half the threat he was earlier and if not for new recruit Islam Slimani, Leicester City would have surely dropped down to the relegation zone by now.
The former Sporting Lisbon player has been quite decent in his first season. He has scored 4 goals and registered three assists in 10 appearances for the Foxes. Although his shot accuracy (40%) is yet to improve, the Algerian is pretty effective with his passing. He will be up against Stoke City skipper Ryan Shawcross.
Shawcross returned to the previous match and saw out a hard-fought match against Southampton after getting reduced to 10 men in the opening 30 minutes. He had been a defensive leader for the Potters earlier this season and Hughes dearly missed him at the back. He has won 16 tackles this season with a success rate of 64%. He has made 12 interceptions, 62 clearances and 12 blocks. Slimani will have a tough opponent in the Englishman.
Joe Allen vs Danny Drinkwater
Although the midfield leader hasn’t featured in the last few matches following his suspension, Drinkwater has given a rare balance to the Foxes’ midfield. The English anchorman has won 16 tackles this season with a success rate of 64%. He has made 12 interceptions, 62 clearances and 12 blocks. His absence rightly highlights the disorientation in Leicester’s offensive and defensive balance. He is expected to start against Stoke and will be up against Joe Allen.
The Wales international has scored four goals this season, creating 18 chances and two assists. Allen has completed 388 passes with a pass accuracy of 80%, of which 72% were forward passes. He has been the best player for the Potters this season and Hughes will rely highly on him to win the midfield duels.
Riyad Mahrez vs Erik Pieters
Mahrez’s form has fluctuated this season but the performance against City rightly showed what he is capable of when he is at his best. The Algerian international has scored three goals this season, creating 23 chances and two assists. Mahrez has completed 381 passes this season with a pass accuracy of 77%, of which 78% were forward passes.
He will be up against Stoke City’s Erik Pieters. The left back has been a prominent player in the Potters squad and is more than expected to cope with the off-form winger. The Dutch international has won 32 tackles this season with a success rate of 50%. He has made 22 interceptions, 53 clearances and five blocks.