Hope remains, but Stoke City are destined to drop into the Championship
It is the hope that kills you.
In what has been nothing short of a catastrophic season for the club, Stoke City enter the final two games of the campaign with still the slightest glimmer of hope that they will be able to retain their Premier League status.
The Potters have one of the worst defensive records in the top flight, have the worst away record in the country and have not won any of their last twelve games, yet they somehow might still secure survival.
Perhaps it is a reflection of the paucity of quality amongst the so-called lesser clubs in the Premier League that a team undermined with such frailties and inadequacies is not cut adrift at the foot of the table.
Stoke effectively require snookers to pull themselves out of the relegation mire and, yet, the ‘great escape’ still remains a possibility.
They need to win both of their remaining fixtures, against Crystal Palace at home on Saturday and, in what could by a nail-biting final game of the season, against Swansea City, whilst also hoping that results go their way.
In truth, the Potters have been limping along for some time now and there has been little to suggest that they will be able to avoid the drop.
Paul Lambert succeeded Mark Hughes in January but has failed to stimulate any improvement in results on the pitch.
One win in 13 attempts tells much of the story and the fact that Stoke are averaging fewer points under Lambert than they were under Hughes is a damning indictment of the Scotsman’s short spell with the club.
Onlookers will highlight that Lambert has made Stoke more defensively solid and harder to beat, but it is wins that the Potters desperately need.
The majority of Lambert’s previous 12 games in charge have been billed as ‘must win’ encounters, yet victory has remained elusive, through a mixture of individual errors and poor managerial decisions.
Nonetheless, hope remains.
Mathematically, Stoke still have a chance of surviving but the likelihood of the team picking up back-to-back victories and also having results go their way is highly unlikely, at best.
The performance at Anfield on Saturday was rightly applauded.
The Potters produced a solid rear-guard action to stifle Liverpool and could have stolen all three points had Ryan Shawcross converted a guilt-edged chance in the closing stages.
However, ultimately that point may turn out to be worthless.
It is not at places like Anfield that Stoke’s season has been determined, but rather their failure to beat the teams around them in the bottom half of the league.
So, Stoke supporters enter the closing stages of the season with hope and there will undoubtedly be plenty of nail-biting at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday.
However, it may have been better for their heart palpitations if the club had already been put out of its misery.
If the Potters do secure safety it will go down as one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history and supporters will cling to that facet of hope.
However, looking objectively at the current situation at the Bet365 Stadium and recent results on the pitch there is little to suggest that any hope of survival is anything but misplaced.
In truth, barring a minor miracle, Stoke will be playing in the Sky Bet Championship next season and they have been destined to do so for some time this season.