Arsenal vs Stoke City: Match preview and predicted line-ups
Two of the Premier League’s in-form teams go head to head at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as Arsenal host Stoke City.
The Gunners have not lost a league fixture since the opening day of the season and have cemented themselves as genuine title contenders this season. Arsene Wenger appears to have resolved his side’s defensive frailties and in Alexis Sanchez the Frenchman can call upon one of the world’s best attacking talents. Arsenal have had a relatively easy seven days, cruising past West Ham last weekend (5-1) and brushing off the challenge of FC Basel (4-1) in mid-week, so there should no lack of confidence in the current group of players.
Stoke City continue to climb the table after making a poor start to the season and have lost just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures. Mark Hughes is currently maximising the talents of his key offensive duo, Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri, but has also amassed a solid defensive unit. However, The Potters will need to break their Emirates hoodoo if they are to come away from North London satisfied – they have yet to pick up any points at Arsenal’s home since achieving promotion to the Premier League in 2008.
Arsenal have had an extremely impressive season so far and have emerged as genuine title contenders as the campaign has developed. They are unbeaten in their previous thirteen Premier League fixtures and the only blot on their recent form was a defeat in the League Cup semi-finals against Southampton at the end of November. Goals are certainly not in short supply and The Gunners found the back of the net fourteen times in their last five matches in all competitions including a five-goal demolition of West Ham last weekend. Arsene Wenger has a faultless record against Stoke in games taking place at The Emirates and it is normally back in North Staffordshire where the Frenchman’s side tend to falter.
Stoke City are in the midst of a good run of form with just one defeat in their previous nine league fixtures. Only three other teams (Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal) have picked up more points over the same period of time and it is no surprise that The Potter have shot up the table in recent months. Despite being handicapped by injuries and suspensions they have won both of their previous fixtures, a 2-0 victory over Burnley last weekend and a 1-0 victory at Vicarage Road two weeks ago, and Mark Hughes will have some selection headaches prior to travelling down to London with a multitude of players returning and being available for selection. However, The Potters have lost all of their previous seven competitive games at the Emirates and have managed to find the net just three times in North London.
Arsene Wenger has plenty of selection headaches ahead of Saturday’s game, although the vast majority are positive. Hector Bellerin could make a return from injury after recovering from an ankle problem suffered in early-November, although Wenger man choose to keep faith with Gabriel who has acted as a solid deputy at right-back in recent weeks. Francis Coquelin is available for selection after he had to sit out the Champions League tie in mid-week due to a suspension and the Frenchman will be competing for a midfield slot along with Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey. Alexis Sanchex and Metsut Ozil were both substituted in mid-week, but only as a precaution to keep them fresh for the weekend’s Premier League clash.
Stoke City could have as many as eight players missing on Saturday due to injury concerns. Jack Butland remains side-lined along with long-term absentees Steven Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay. American utility man Geoff Cameron has been missing for a month due to a knee problem and illness and is a major doubt whilst Marko Arnautovic (hip) and Bruno Martins Indi (facial) are both expected to face late fitness tests. Ryan Shawcross is closing in on a return, although the game against Arsenal may come too soon for The Potters captain, and both Glenn Whelan and Joe Allen are available following injury and suspension respectively.
Arsenal Predicted Starting XI
Stoke City Predicted Starting XI
Arsenal are certainly in fine form and historically have an edge over the visitors on Saturday. However, Stoke City are due to pick up a result at The Emirates Stadium, having failed in seven previous attempts, and have only suffered one defeat in their last nine Premier League matches. An entertaining draw.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 1, Stoke City 1
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved A.J.B. Photography (A.J.B. Photography)
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