Fortress Liberty. This is what quickly needs to be established if the Swans are to achieve our end goal of promotion come the end of the season. It’s so far so good in some aspects as not a single goal conceded and 5 points from 9 picked up. On Sunday, the Swans welcome Stoke City to the Liberty in a battle dubbed in some areas of the media as Beauty vs The Beast.
Steve Caulker and Alan Tate remain long term absentees at the back and with no contracts offered to trialists Vangelis Moras and Zoltan Liptak, Garry Monk will continue at the heart of defence. He’s likely to line up in front of Vorm with Taylor, Williams and Rangel alongside him. The Jackarmy will be sweating on Leon Britton’s fitness. The little Londoner has started the season in blistering form and his absence certainly will not go unnoticed should he not appear on Sunday. With the Dutch duo of Agustein and Bodde still out, Allen and Gower will be hoping that Leon is passed fit. Rodgers must decide between Lita or Graham to partner Dyer and Sinclair up front.
Stoke City are never going to win any awards for playing attractive, continental football. However, what they do possess is quality organisation and an excellent direct approach to football. Tony Pulis has turned Stoke from Football League Stalwarts into a team competing for honours in the Europa league this year. They have quickly established themselves as Premier League regulars and the thought of coming up against Stoke and their infamous long throw is enough to give any defence nightmares.
There will be little surprise to see Stoke turn up and play 4-4-2 and look to play the ball long up to their big strikers. Their directness won’t win them many admirers from abroad, but it will win them points away from home therefore the Swans will have to be at their best to beat them.
Last Time out (League):
Stoke 1-1 Manchester United
Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Woodgate, Whelan; Pennant, Wilson, Delap, Etherington; Crouch, Walters
Subs: Sorenson, Huth, Jerome, Whitehead, Shotton, Palacios, Upson
At the Back
Bosnian International Asmir Begovic remains Tony Pulis’ number one in the league leaving Danish international Thomas Sorenson on the bench. Club Captain Ryan Shawcross leads a line of big strong defenders which also includes Robert Huth and English internationals Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson. Andy Wilkinson and Danny Higgimbottom are also both very capable defenders and will be looking to stop Swansea’s wingers getting into their stride.
In the Middle
If he’s passed fit, then Matthew Etherington will be the main threat in open play for Stoke. The former West Ham pundit has won many plaudits for the role he’s played in Stoke’s rise. Rory Delap will prove a threat at set pieces as his throw in has the ability to punish any defence in world football should they not deal with the danger properly. Salif Diao is doubtful ahead of the trip to South Wales with a fractured cheekbone. Glenn Whelan, Winston Palacios, Dean Whitehead, Matt Lund and Marc Wilson form the rest of the midfield.
Former Swan Mamady (Big Mamma) Sidebe is on Stoke’s books but is unlikely to start come Sunday. Jonathan Walters ended last season in blistering form and his winning penalty on Thursday night should be enough to see his place in the team alongside new summer signing Peter Crouch. Former Cardiff player Cameron Jerome will be looking to make an impression if he comes off the bench against his former employers rivals. Trinidadian international Kenwyne Jones is facing a race against time to be fit for the visit to South Wales
Peter Crouch vs Ashley Williams
Peter Crouch’s height is well documented and naturally with such a height advantage, his aerial threat is phenomenal. Williams will have to ensure that he is unable to utilise that against the Swans defence or the Swans 100% defensive record may be at risk.
Neil Taylor vs Jermaine Pennant
Taylor has been excellent since his return from a 3 game ban for his red card away at Forest. He has proven in the games he’s played that he belongs in the Premier League. Stoke’s main goal threat will come from balls into the box and Taylor’s job on Sunday is to stop one of Stoke’s most effective wingers from being able to deliver those crosses.
Swansea Defence vs The Long Throw
The undoing of many teams in the Premier League. It’s a tool that Stoke and Rory Delap in particular have exercised to perfection. Brendan has probably been briefing the entire squad all week on its dangers and working hard to prevent any goalmouth damage coming as a direct result of it. However, should a lapse in concentration occur, then Swansea could be looking towards an afternoon of chasing the game.
Lita/Graham vs Jonathan Woodgate
Swansea will worry the Stoke defence as they possess the ability to play football on the floor and whilst not many teams can match Stoke physically, on the ground, the Swans hold the edge. Bringing in Jonathan Woodgate on a pay as you play deal is nothing short of genius in my eyes as he clearly possess all the attributes needed to be an excellent centre half but he’s injury prone. Both positives and negatives were demonstrated during his time at Real Madrid. He will have to show all those attributes to inspire his defence to stop the Swans attacking momentum and whichever striker gets the nod, they’ll be itching to cement their place in the starting XI
Head to Head
Its 10 years since we played Stoke last. In that season that ultimately accumulated in relegation, we did the double over the Potters beating them both times 2-1.
7/3/2001 – Stoke 1-2 Swansea
14/10/2000 – Swansea 2-1 Stoke
5/12/1998 – Swansea 1-0 Stoke
25/3/1993 – Swansea 1-2 Stoke
28/11/1992 – Stoke 2-1 Swansea
1/2/1992 – Stoke 2-1 Swansea
Conclusions and Predictions
Despite some negativity in this preview about Stoke’s threat from set pieces, should Swansea deal with them, then I believe that this game is there for the taking for them. The whole squad will be looking to bounce back from the disappointing result away at Chelsea and as the old cliché goes, you have to win your home games! C’mon the Swans.
This article was written by Matt Wallace