Inside Track: Stoke City

By SFC Media Wed 28 Feb Saints v Stoke
Photo by Andrew Kearns | Getty Images

Get the lowdown on this weekend's opponents Stoke City from The Sentinel's Martin Spinks...

What has the form been like at Stoke in recent weeks?

Best to judge it from Paul Lambert’s arrival, since when they have beaten Huddersfield, drawn at home to Watford, lost 2-1 at Bournemouth, drawn 1-1 at home to Brighton and on Saturday drawn 1-1 at Leicester.

You can make a case for saying they could have won any one of those four since Huddersfield – and they certainly work harder and look more organised than under Mark Hughes - but we are all aware that his games so far have come against ‘easier’ opposition.

What sort of an impact has Paul Lambert had?

He’s unquestionably got a response from the players. It’s as if their predicament has finally dawned on them now there is a more animated manager at the helm, one prepared to go back to basics and demand those basics from his players.

He wasn’t first choice, but they will be singing his name long and loud if he keeps them up.

How much significance is being placed on this game at Stoke?

We are seriously worried, so this has to be another huge one. Not just because it’s a six-pointer, but because they really need a win from somewhere to try and generate some momentum after shooting themselves in the foot when wins were available against Brighton and Leicester. Draws are laying a firm foundation, but they’ve got to find three or four wins from somewhere in these last 10 games.

What sort of an approach/style of play do you think they will have for the game?

Nothing fancy. Simply keep a good defensive shape, get men behind the ball when without the ball, carry out your duty at set pieces and take any chances (more often than not) that come your way.
All the simple things they should have been doing before Paul Lambert’s arrival.

Who will be the key players for Stoke?

At the back, it will be Jack Butland, particularly after his error at Leicester, though he responded magnificently afterwards by pulling off a few saves.

In midfield, Stoke need another performance from Joe Allen like the one he turned in at Leicester when he pick-pocketed the ball off the opposition so many times.

And up front, all eyes will be on Xherdan Shaqiri to see if he can score for a fourth consecutive game. He’s scored those three with his head, his left and his right, so goodness knows which part of his anatomy he’ll use next.

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