Swansea v Stoke
Saturday 22 April, 15:00
Were it not for Gylfi Sigurdsson you feel that Swansea would be condemned to relegation already. The Icelandic midfielder has scored nine goals and provided 11 assists so far this season - an incredible return considering he is playing for a team in the relegation zone.
But even Sigurdsson cannot single-handedly save the Swans from the drop. Fernando Llorente had been their other key performer going forward, having scored 11 goals of his own in the Premier League, but his form has dropped significantly in recent weeks.
That has resulted in the Swans scoring just once in their last five games, having won five of the previous eight.
Paul Clement's side only lost 1-0 to Watford last weekend and while Vicarage Road has become a hard place to visit in recent months, they never really looked like winning.
That result leaves them sitting in 18th place, two points off Hull City, and, with just five games left, Swansea need to seriously turn their form around if they are to survive.
Stoke's best run this season was the three victories on the bounce they enjoyed at the end of October, culminating in a 3-1 win in the reverse fixture of this tie. The other two teams they beat in that spell were Sunderland and Hull. Since then their form has been wildly inconsistent.
Much like fellow mid-table dwellers West Brom, the Potters have been more ruthless against the teams below them in the table while rolling over for the bigger sides. Of the seven Premier League games against bottom four sides this season, Stoke have won six.
The 3-1 victory over Hull last weekend ended an awful spell of four defeats for Mark Hughes' men and sees them back in the hunt for 9th spot - something they have achieved in all three seasons since the Welshman took charge.
That game saw Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic combining for a delightful opener - a reminder of the attractive football Stoke can play under Hughes, before Peter Crouch and Jon Walters came on in the second half to break the deadlock with the scores tied at 1-1 - a reminder of the more pragmatic approach to football Stoke took under previous boss Tony Pulis. It would be no surprise to see one or both of the latter two playing a part this weekend.
Michael Oliver will referee Saturday's game. The 32-year-old has been in charge of 38 matches this season, handing out 113 yellows (2.97 per game) and four reds - the latter of which came in a spell of just 13 games. He was also in the middle for the reverse of this fixture which Stoke won 3-1.
Eight teams have visited the Liberty Stadium this season and won, which would suggest Stoke are in with a shout of a win at odds of [3.6].
However, with Swansea in desperate need of the points in their fight for survival - Clement describing this encounter as "the biggest game this club has had in years" - and Stoke merely meandering in mid-table you have to feel Swansea will be the more up for it and their odds of [2.26] reflect that.
Nevertheless, I am still tempted to think Stoke can get something from this game, owing to Swansea's travails in front of goal and the fact they have the fourth worst home record in the league. Therefore the draw at odds of [3.45] or Stoke Draw No Bet at odds of [2.58] are tempting - particularly if Hughes opts to bring Crouch and Walters in from the start.
With Fernando Llorente bang out of form and Swansea having scored just once their last five matches, odds of the hosts even getting on the scoresheet look slim.
Likewise the visitors. As Opta reveal, Stoke haven't scored an away goal in the Premier League since January at Sunderland, going 506 minutes without a goal on the road.
While the Potters looked back in form last week against Hull - and could nick it by a goal - it is unlikely the floodgates will open. It is therefore a surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals as long as [1.86]. Certainly an attractive choice.
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