Apr 2, 2016 at 3pm UK at ​Britannia Stadium
Attendance: 27,649
StokeStoke City
SwanseaSwansea City
Afellay (13'), Krkic (53')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Sigurdsson (68'), Paloschi (79')
Williams (21')

Preview: Stoke City vs. Swansea City

Sports Mole looks ahead to Stoke City's home Premier League encounter against Swansea City at the Britannia Stadium.

Two sides in relatively decent form will clash at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

However, while both teams have been picking up points in recent weeks, they have very different ambitions between now and the end of the season.

For hosting Stoke City, the European places are by no means out of reach, whereas Swansea City need a win or two more to rubber-stamp their Premier League status for another campaign.


Mark Hughes watches on during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Stoke City on March 5, 2016© Getty Images

It is a pretty good time to be a supporter of the men from the Potteries.

Having finished ninth in each of the last two seasons - a Premier League best for the club - they are currently on course to better that, sitting eighth with seven matches left to play.

Not only that, such positive results have been achieved with flair courtesy of players of the ilk of Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic, who have previously played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively. Even two years ago, seeing players of that calibre turn out in the red and white stripes was the stuff of dreams for fans.

It has meant that a place in Europe next term is not out of the question. Four wins from their last six games has left Mark Hughes's men four points adrift of his former club Manchester United, who occupy the final Europa League spot. Of course, another place would open up were United or West Ham United to win the FA Cup.

However, just when all connected with Stoke were believing that nothing could go wrong, news filtered through that Jack Butland would play no further part this term because of the broken ankle that he suffered while on international duty with England in Berlin.

The 23-year-old's form between the posts this term has meant that Asmir Begovic's summer departure for Chelsea did not have a negative impact. Indeed, the ten clean sheets kept by Butland can only be bettered by five keepers - all of whom play for sides above Stoke in the table.

Recent form: WWWDLW


Francesco Guidolin watches from the stands during the game between Swansea and Watford on January 18, 2016© Getty Images

When Francesco Guidolin arrived at the Liberty Stadium to lighten the workload on Alan Curtis in January, he inherited a Swansea side that were 18th in the table and had just been dumped out of the FA Cup by League Two outfit Oxford United.

On top of that, having appointed a head coach with no previous experiencing of working in the English top flight, it seemed that the Swans were destined for a return to the Championship after a five-year stint among the country's elite.

To the credit of the 60-year-old Italian and his players, two months on it would take a collapse of epic proportions for Swansea to drop out of the Premier League.

That is because they make the trip to the Britannia Stadium ten points above the bottom three thanks to a run of results that has seen them lose only three times under Guidolin's stewardship. Add in five victories and two draws and it becomes clear why such a large amount of daylight has appeared.

Yet, for all of the positives, what cannot be escaped is Swansea's record on the road. Of their last 11 away matches in all competitions, just two victories have been achieved, remarkably at Goodison Park and the Emirates Stadium - two notoriously tough venues to win at.

Having said that, they do at least tend to pose a goal threat on their travels. They have found the net on each of their last seven trips, including four goals in the previous two.

Recent form: LLWWLW

Team News

Jack Butland sits injured during the international friendly between Germany and England on March 26, 2016© Getty Images

Whatever way it is dressed up, losing Butland for the remainder of the season is a bitter blow to Stoke.

Now, Hughes must decide whether to turn to the experience of Shay Given or the Danish rookie Jakob Haugaard, who is yet to feature in the Premier League since his summer switch from FC Midtjylland.

Former Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham recently spoke in favour of Given, but there have been suggestions that Haugaard will be handed the opportunity.

Experienced defenders Ryan Shawcross and Glen Johnson are also expected to miss out with injuries, but the team should be boosted by the return of Shaqiri from a thigh problem.

As for the Swans, they are only likely to have one injury absentee in the form of Andre Ayew.

Stoke possible starting lineup:
Haugaard; Bardsley, Cameron, Wollscheid, Muniesa; Whelan, Imbula; Bojan, Afellay, Arnautovic; Joselu

Swansea possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Naughton; Cork, Ki, Fer, Barrow, Sigurdsson; Gomis

Head To Head

These two sides have met nine times in the Premier League era, only three of which have been won by Swansea.

Stoke, meanwhile, have prospered four times, with two draws thrown into the bargain.

When they faced off earlier in the campaign a fourth-minute penalty from Bojan was enough for visiting Stoke to earn all three points.

The Dugout Podcast

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We say: Stoke 2-1 Swansea

Swansea always tend to score away from home and with Butland out, they will fancy their chances of keeping that run going. However, providing that Stoke's big hitters are on form, they should have enough quality to edge this encounter.

Who will win Saturday's Premier League encounter between Stoke and Swansea?

Shay Given of Stoke City kicks the ball during the Colonia Cup 2015 match between FC Porto and Stoke City FC at RheinEnergieStadion on August 2, 2015 in Cologne, Germany.
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Higginbotham: 'Given should replace Butland'
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