Premier League 17/18 Week 38: Swansea City vs Stoke City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Swansea chase their fading dreams of survival against the already gone Potters in what will be a tense afternoon in South Wales
15:00 BST, Sunday 13th May, Liberty Stadium (Swansea, Wales)
Needing only a win, Southampton to lose and a 10-goal swing in goal difference, the writing appears to already be on the wall for the Swans. That they face the softest defence in the league while Southampton face Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring champions means that the ink is not dry yet though. The major problem for Swansea, however, is not so much their 4 consecutive defeats but their record of 2 goals from their last 720 minutes of Premier League action. With only 90 more minutes remaining, it will take a monumental shift for them to breathe hope into their fans.
Paul Lambert’s Stoke will want to be more than just bystanders in this final fixture. With their relegation to the Championship finally confirmed this week, they will have the freedom to deliver one last performance on the Premier League stage and will want to mark this game with a win. Without a win in their last 13 matches, victory in this match could be enough to lift them off the foot of the table and will provide some much-needed motivation for next season’s new challenge.
Last Time Out
Swansea City 0-1 Southampton (Premier League)
The Swans were defeated in a make-or-break game against a Saints side who managed to play it cool. The game never threatened to be a source of high-quality entertainment but it did provide a gripping plot full of anxiety. With the first half short of clear-cut chances, Jordan Ayew had the first genuine sight of goal early in the second half only for Alex McCarthy to be equal to his effort.
Lukasz Fabianski then became Swansea’s most important player, making two vital saves to keep his side in the game. The keeper was left helpless in the 72nd minute, however, Manolo Gabbiadini beating him to give the visitors the lead. In going behind, the Swans became desperate. Their gameplan became to play the ball into the box as quickly and as often as possible. Lacking any nuance, it was a tactic which also failed to provide a goal and the home side were left to taste a defeat which could mean more than just three dropped points.
Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Potters were condemned to Championship football next season when a late rally from Palace turned a possible victory into another defeat. With only a win good enough to keep the Potters alive, the home side began the match brightly and showed plenty of intent to keep their fate in their own hands.
While there were few genuine opportunities throughout the first half, Xherdan Shaqiri gave them the lead with a free-kick in the 43rd minute. While this gave them the lead going into the break, the Potters could not build on their advantage or successfully defend it in the second half.
With more pressure coming from Palace after the break, Stoke first got caught out with a counter-attack to even the scores. As the game drifted towards a draw, a late mistake from Ryan Shawcross then presented the perfect opportunity for the visitors to snatch all three points. In a game which encapsulated Stokes entire season in just 90 minutes, the final whistle sounded to signal the end for the Potters.
Swansea City Lineup
Mike van der Hoorn (groin) remains a doubt for the Swans but Leroy Fer (Achilles) Kyle Bartley (knee) and Wilfried Bony (ankle) will all definitely be unavailable for selection this weekend.
Stoke City Lineup
Bruno Martins Indi (groin) Konstantinos Stafylidis (rib) and Eric Choupo-Moting (knock) all miss out for the Potters final game of the season.
Key Battle: André Ayew (Swansea) vs Joe Allen (Stoke)
If Swansea are to have any hope of survival, they will need to do something they have struggled with in recent weeks. Score a goal. There best chance of this comes in the form of the Ayew brothers with Jordan, in particular, the most likely to score. It is André who is perhaps the most important player for the Swans this weekend though, with creativity required more than a clinical touch. Jordan has looked isolated in attack lately and if the Swans are to get on the scoresheet, they will need someone to link up with the main striker and provide ammunition to shoot.
If there’s one Stoke player who does not deserve to face relegation, Joe Allen is probably that person. The Welsh midfielder has provided some strong performances only for the team’s lack of goals to derail their ambitions. As an anchoring midfielder, Allen will be the player looking to cut Swansea’s supply lines hoping his forwards can fire the team to victory.
Fail to prepare..
When Carlos Carvalhal arrived in Swansea last Christmas, many people expected him to be a manager brought in early to help the club battle back out of the Championship. Not only was this a slur on his credentials, it was also a mark of how little was expected of the players and the club.
With confirmed reports that Carvalhal will now leave the club after Sunday’s final fixture, it appears this initial perception was wide of the mark. With the club looking doomed and rudderless heading into the summer break, the Swansea board have some serious decisions to make and quickly. Given their recent track record for plotting the club’s path, this seems like a worrying time to be a Swan fan.
Prepare to fail
Peter and John Coates released a public statement this week highlighting their acceptance that mistakes had been made with the club off the field. With nods to a transfer policy that hindsight has proven flawed and a playing squad in dire need of an overhaul, it was an honest statement full of good intentions.
Where this leaves the club moving forward, however, remains to be seen. In Paul Lambert, they have a manager who has failed to inspire a notable response from the dressing room, a fact compounded by his recent failures to manager other clubs prior to his Stoke appointment.
With much work needed during the summer and beyond, Stoke desperately need a new figurehead at the club who can lead them towards a new vision. While this too is as obvious as the conclusions being drawn from the last few seasons of systemic failure at Stoke, their next move is not as obvious in what will prove to be a competitive league to escape from.
Prediction: Swansea City 0-1 Stoke City
Carlos Carvalhal has elicited some results from the Swans against the odds this season, however, their recent form has seen an alarming drop in standard. Stoke have battled hard for almost no reward lately but this fight could prove to be the difference between the sides in a low-scoring game.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Naden)