Stoke Focus – Potters need to tread carefully if they are to avoid relegation battle

Tony Pulis was delighted to have continued Stoke’s unbeaten start to the season with their fourth consecutive draw against Manchester City at the Britannia and on the face of it, the Welshman has every right to be. Points wise, Stoke may have had better starts in seasons past but statistically speaking, Stoke’s unbeaten start is arguably one of their best ever. Added to that the positive transfer business conducted by Pulis in the last couple of weeks with the additions of Charlie Adam, Steven N’Zonzi and latterly Michael Owen, who made his debut to a marvellous reception against City, and the Stoke fans should not be castigated for their optimism.

However, a quick look at the fixture list reveals tough times may be on the way in the Potteries. The next four games see Stoke travel to Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with a game at home to Swansea in-between. Stoke at their best would be able to give those three big guns a game, particularly at Anfield where Liverpool are currently below the Potters in the table.

However, judging by the way Stoke have played so far this season, it is certainly not a stretch to suggest that their only chance of points from the next few weeks comes in the shape of that Swansea home match. It has to be said that Stoke’s stuttering start has gone under the radar somewhat. Yes, they have come up against Arsenal and City in their opening games but it is the performances that have been most alarming. In all four games, there has been a distinct lack of for want of a better word, passion, in their football.

Against Arsenal in particular, a side that Stoke have dominated at the Britannia in the past through sheer commitment, endeavour and physicality, both the players and the crowd were muted. Indeed, when departing from the Britannia, Manchester City will have felt hard-done by not coming away with all three points. Clashes at the Britannia, particularly against the big boys are often marked by Stoke’s power unsettling their more illustrious opponents, who travel back home lucky to get anything they can. That is not the case this season. Similarly, in Stoke’s last away match at Wigan, a team who you would expect Stoke to completely overwhelm with their power-play, the Potters struggled at times and were lucky to come away with a point.

Thus, considering the performances, can anyone realistically say that Stoke will get anything from the trips to Stamford Bridge, Anfield and Old Trafford? The fear is by the end of these next four weeks, that Stoke could find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle.

However, Pulis will be confident that as his new signings continue to bed in, that once this tough run of fixtures is out of the way, his team will knit together and help improve Stoke’s fortunes.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Chelsea v Stoke

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