Arsenal vs Stoke preview - 'Expect a second string side'

Sunday 1st April

The international break is over and club football is back. It’s about time! Arsenal face one of their 'bogey teams' in Stoke City on Easter Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.

28th Mar 2018

Arsenal match preview

If I’m being honest, when looking at the facts, it seems rather contradictory to call the Potters one of the club’s 'bogey teams'.

As proven in their reverse fixture, the Gunners typically perform below expectations against Stoke at the bet365 Stadium, having lost there a number of times in the last few seasons.

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However, this all seems to change when the north London club hosts the fixture instead, with their last loss against the Potters at home in the league dating all the way back to 1981.

If there’s one thing in common between the two sides, it’s the fact that both have had largely underwhelming seasons.

Many expected Arsenal to contest for a place in the Champions League at the start of the season, but they are actually closer to the relegation spaces than the league leaders.

Regarding their opponents, not many people predicted the Potters to be relegated from England’s top division this season, but they are now fighting to remain in the league. Stoke will be desperate to end a curse of more than 30 years as they attempt to keep their place in the division.

While there’s not much to play for in the Premier League, these type of fixtures could prove pivotal to Arsenal’s Europa League aspirations as victory can keep morale high within the squad.

Elsewhere, taking into consideration the current uncertainty surrounding players like Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette, the game can also be utilised by the players as a way of proving they deserve to be in the first team on Thursday night. 

READ MORE: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal criticism is age discrimination

Predicted line-up

With a crucial Europa League clash against CSKA Moscow looming in midweek, I’d expect Arsene Wenger to play a backup side against the Potters.

The likes of Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny should be rested after featuring for their respective national side, and other players like Jack Wilshere and Ramsey should miss out due to recent injury struggles.

In terms of who is likely to play, it seems rather obvious that Petr Cech, Mohamed Elneny, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will all be selected on Sunday afternoon.

XI: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Elneny, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Welbeck.

Opposition danger man

Xherdan Shaqiri - If there’s anyone to fear at Stoke City, it has to be Shaqiri. The versatile midfielder is without a doubt the Potters’ best player and will likely be the driving force behind any attack from the away side.

The Switzerland international has performed rather well this season for his club, scoring seven and assisting six goals from a variety of different positions. It will be crucial for whoever comes up against the midfielder to try and neutralise the threat he possesses.

Betting tips and predictions

First goalscorer flutter

If I’m being honest, I feel sorry for Aubameyang. Due to some of UEFA’s strange European rules, the Gabonese forward can’t play any part in the club’s quest for the Europa League trophy.

Regarding the league itself, there isn’t exactly much to play for either. It seems that all Aubameyang can do for the remainder of the season is to try and score as many goals as he possibly can.

In his five league games thus far, he already has three goals to his name and I expect him to add at least one to his tally on Sunday.

Get Aubameyang to score first @ 29/10

Bet with your head

The odds are stacked in Arsenal’s favour. The London side have a far superior team and will be playing at the Emirates where they have a good record this season.

Arsenal began to place the pieces for a good run of form before the international break, and I expect them to continue this on Sunday.

Get Arsenal to win 3-0 @ 17/2

Go with your gut

If the last few seasons as an Arsenal fan have taught me anything, it’s that you just can’t get too optimistic supporting the club. One quick goal from the visitors on Sunday could change everything for the Gunners.

While I don’t see the away side leaving London with all three points, I wouldn’t be shocked if they caused another upset.

Get a 1-1 draw @ 19/2

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