A tough fixture list has combined with bad luck to leave Stoke City with just 2 points from its first four Premier League matches. The schedule gets no easier this weekend, as the Potters travel to London to take on Arsenal. Stoke will be without a few of their key contributors due to both injury and suspension, but manager Mark Hughes believes he’s built a deep enough side to give the Gunners a challenge. Here’s a look at Stoke City’s projected lineup:
Goalkeeper: Jack Butland
Butland was called up by England manager Roy Hodgson for the recent World Cup Qualifiers, but did not feature. At 22, Butland should be a fixture in the England lineup for years to come, and has had a terrific start to the season for Stoke, despite having not yet kept a clean sheet. Butland should face a number of challenges from a strong Arsenal front line, but is more than up to the task of stopping the Gunners.
Defense: Glenn Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Marc Muniesa, Erik Pieters
Johnson has been dealing with a nagging injury, but should be good to go for this one, if he is unable to start, Phil Bardsley would most likely slide into his spot. Cameron played out of position for the United States against Brazil over the international break, but will perform better back in his more natural centre back role alongside Muniesa as the Potters await the return of captain Ryan Shawcross from injury.
Defensive Midfield: Glenn Whelan, Marco van Ginkel, Xherdan Shaqiri, Stephen Ireland, Bojan
Stoke will be without both Ibrahim Afellay and Charlie Adam after the pair picked up red cards in the last match against West Brom. Bojan has yet to make his Premier League debut this campaign while recovering from knee surgery, but should get the call this weekend alongside the record signing Shaqiri, and the in form Stephen Ireland. Whelan and van Ginkel will play in the defensive midfield, trying to hold possession for Stoke. It will be key for the defensive midfielders to hold possession, while the attacking midfielders must not only create quality chances, but make the most of them when they come.
Hughes faces a tough decision up top, with usual striker Mame Diouf expected to miss out due to injury. Peter Crouch is a decent striking option, but lacks the technical skill that the rest of the Stoke lineup possesses. Joselu won a vital penalty in the comeback effort against Spurs, and deserves a chance to enter the lineup this weekend. If things don’t go well, Crouch should come off the bench with half an hour left to give the Potters a more aerial option in their chase for a goal. Whoever the striker is will be tasked with finishing what few chances the attacking midfielders create. Stoke can’t afford to let too many opportunities go to waste, as there may not be many of them over the course of the 90 minutes.
Prediction: Stoke were strong in a 2-2 draw with Spurs, but followed that up with a disappointing loss at home to West Brom. The Potters have always played well against big name opponents, and though this match is on the road, they should be able to give Arsenal a battle. The Gunners have struggled at home so far this campaign, this one ends in a 1-1 draw.