Two sides that have ambitions of qualifying for Europe through the league this season meet on Saturday as Stoke City take on Crystal Palace in what has all the makings of an entertaining affair.
There are few clubs in the top-flight that are in better form than Stoke, who have won six and drawn two of their last 10 games, keeping clean sheets in seven of them. Although they are strong as an overall defensive unit, that run has coincided with the return of captain Ryan Shawcross, whose presence on the pitch is still yet to result in the concession of a goal this season; and with a goalkeeper in such fine form in Jack Butland, the Potters are becoming extremely tough to break down.
If they can reach the level they found in their last home game against Manchester City, there will surely be no stopping them here, but Stoke still need to become more ruthless in front of goal as their scoring record this season belies the attacking talent that Mark Hughes has at his disposal. Missed chances were the reason why they had to settle for a draw at West Ham United last time out, with Marco van Ginkel and substitute Mame Biram Diouf particularly guilty.
When the name Crystal Palace is mentioned, one immediately thinks of their two lightning quick and tricky widemen Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha, and the duo showed exactly why in their last game at home to Southampton. Together they gave the Saints backline a torrid afternoon and it brought the win their side deserved, with Bolasie leaving former Eagles star Jose Fonte for dead before crossing for record signing Yohan Cabaye to finish from close range.
This is an especially intriguing match up considering that the two sides play identical systems, so a lot will depend on who wins more of their individual battles across the field. Palace coped well with a dynamic forward line in their last away match at Everton to come away with a point, and they will have to be similarly on their guard to deal with what Stoke are able to throw at them here. But whatever the result, these are two clubs which are clearly going places.
Stoke have a number of absentees including Geoff Cameron, Peter Crouch and Marc Muniesa, while Xherdan Shaqiri faces a late fitness test.
Hamstring injuries are keeping Palace duo Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako on the sidelines, but they will have Joe Ledley back available.
Last Meeting: A disputed penalty which was converted by Glenn Murray helped Crystal Palace turn the game around in the minutes leading up to half-time back in March as they earned a fine 2-1 victory. The striker tucked his spot-kick away after goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was ruled to have fouled Yannick Bolasie, and just minutes later Wilfried Zaha ran on to Murray’s header to net the winner. Stoke had been well in control before than, leading through Mame Biram Diouf.
Played for both – Cameron Jerome: The striker spent three years with Stoke between 2011 and 2014, but never established himself as a regular side and left the Britannia Stadium with seven goals in 50 league appearances. The last of those seasons was spent on loan with Crystal Palace, where he netted twice in helping them stay in the top-flight following promotion in 2013.
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