Swansea City will be hoping to achieve just their fourth away victory of the season when they make the trip to Stoke City, who still have realistic ambitions of qualifying for Europe.
A lot will depend here on which Stoke side will actually turn up. Maybe they will deliver a sluggish performance like in their last home outing against Southampton, or maybe they will get on the front foot from the start and attack with incision and quality, as they did just before the international break in winning at Watford. Mark Hughes’ team has been one of the toughest to predict from day one, but on their day they can definitely compete with the very best sides in the Premier League.
Some of the football they played at Watford was a joy to watch as January signing Giannelli Imbula continued to impress in the midfield with a near faultless display, pulling all the strings and allowing Ibrahim Afellay to do more damage from a more advanced position. Meanwhile, Jonathan Walters showed again why he is still very important to the Potters’ cause, scoring one and making the other. In four previous home Premier League meetings with Swansea, Stoke have never lost.
The tension was evident among everybody at Swansea last time out as they scraped a 1-0 victory over bottom club Aston Villa, a result that appears to have done enough for the club to retain top-flight status. It was far from a polished performance as they were second best for large parts and struggled for any kind of fluency or passing rhythm, but defender Federico Fernandez chose the apt moment to score his first goal for the club, albeit aided by poor goalkeeping from a set-piece.
The Swans have been generally solid and difficult to break down in away matches so far since Francesco Guidolin took over, and the Italian will be keen for his side not to relax after apparently securing safety. They certainly need to show more quality in possession, which Leon Britton soundly provides in the centre of midfield, keeping things ticking over with his simple passing game. But whether Imbula will let him dictate here is a totally different matter altogether.
The outstanding Jack Butland will miss the rest of the season for Stoke, so Shay Given is likely to be in goal. A lengthy injury list also includes Glen Johnson, Ryan Shawcross, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marc Wilson.
Andre Ayew miss out again for a Swansea side that will assess the fitness of wingers Modou Barrow and Jefferson Montero.
Last Meeting: Swansea made much the better start to the clash in October 2014 and were rewarded when Wilfried Bony confidently stroked home a penalty following over-zealous grappling from Ryan Shawcross at a corner. The game changed in a moment of great controversy as Victor Moses appeared to dive to earn Stoke a spot-kick that was converted by Charlie Adam. The hosts were the dominant force after the break, and won thanks to Jonathan Walters’ header.