Stoke City will be aiming to collect their fourth consecutive Premier League victory when they play host to a goal-shy Watford side that has not won on any of their last three outings.
After a slow start, the Potters have really found their groove in recent weeks, and the main secret to their improvement is a greater solidity at the back. In the early weeks of the season goalkeeper Jack Butland was given very little protection from those in front of him and was often the man responsible for keeping his side in games, but Monday’s victory at Swansea City was largely down to their defensive organisation and getting the basics right.
The crucial goal came early on when the trickery of Bojan Krkic proved too tricky for Swansea to handle. It is no coincidence that his return has helped spark Stoke’s recovery, and he shows an impressive work rate in addition to his impressive contributions going forward. But in midfield they have an unsung hero in the shape of Glenn Whelan, who is neat and tidy as ever and it is his nous which could get the better of visiting counterpart Etienne Capoue.
The Frenchman proved very effective for an hour as the Hornets initially frustrated title hopefuls Arsenal in their last match, but succumbed to a devastating second half spell from the Londoners and eventually lost to a somewhat harsh scoreline. They had their opponents on the backfoot for periods of the first half and had chances to take the lead, but once again they were left to rue their failure to put the ball in the net.
If they can start scoring on a more regular basis, Quique Flores’ side have the ability to have a strong season back in the top-flight, but the burden has to lifted on leading marksman Odion Ighalo, who is the only current member of the squad to have found the net. At the back they are solid enough and will make it difficult for Stoke here, but the greater firepower of the hosts makes them favourites to extend their fine run of form.
The home side are likely to recall Mame Biram Diouf to their attack in place of Joselu, while they also have Jonathan Walters and captain Ryan Shawcross back available.
Watford are still unable to call upon defenders Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban, as well as playmaker Jose Manuel Jurado. Swiss international Valon Behrami will be assessed.