European ambitions are still lingering in the Potteries and Stoke will hope to keep their season alive with a win over Swansea, whose recent revival has seen them pull away from danger.
Stoke’s 2-1 win at Watford in their last fixture means there is just five points between the Potters and the Champions League spots; whilst their goal difference and the number of teams sitting between them means a top four finish is unlikely, Mark Hughes’ men may be left wondering what might have been had they performed with more consistency.
A case in point is their home form, which is normally so reliable; the Potters have won seven but lost six of their games at the Britannia this season. They have often raised their games against the bigger sides but struggled against the lesser lights, so will need to make sure they avoid complacency against the visiting Swans.
Despite a sense of unfulfilled potential, Stoke fans will be content with a top half finish – if Hughes can attract more players of the calibre of Xherdan Shaqiri and Giannelli Imbula, then next season could be an exciting one in Staffordshire.
Swansea’s change of manager has had a belated effect, with Francesco Guidolin inspiring his side to three wins from their last four games; a run which has opened up a ten-point gap between themselves and the bottom three.
The Italian has said he is ‘unconcerned’ about reports linking Brendan Rodgers with a return to the Liberty Stadium, and his focus will be solely on getting City the points they need to remain a top-flight outfit next season.
The Welsh side have never beaten Stoke at the Britannia in the Premier League, and if they were to end that unwelcome record this weekend they would reach 39 points and bask in the relative comfort of mid-table mediocrity for the remainder of the campaign.
The hosts will be without Jack Butland for the rest of the season after he fractured his ankle on international duty with England, and Jon Walters will also be absent following knee cartilage surgery.
Erik Pieters should return from injury but Geoff Cameron could join Glen Johnson and Ryan Shawcross on the sidelines.
Guidolin will be missing Andre Ayew for a third successive match because of an ankle problem, while Jefferson Montero and Modou Barrow will be assessed on their returns from international duty.
League Position: Stoke – 8th (46 pts); Swansea – 15th (36 pts)
Last Meeting: Swansea 0-1 Stoke (October 17, 2015)
Form: Stoke – WWWDLW; Swansea – LLWWLW
Key Men: Stoke – Xherdan Shaqiri; Swansea – Gylfi Sigurdsson
Shoot Says: Stoke 2-1 Swansea