Mark Hughes’ ninth-placed Stoke City travel to red-hot Arsenal in a bid to finally overcome the curse of the Emirates.
Arsenal vs Stoke City
Date: Saturday 10th December 2016
Venue: Emirates Stadium, Holloway
Competition: Premier League
Referee: Mr L. Mason
Last time they met: Stoke 0-0 Arsenal
Latest betting odds (bet365):
Our prediction: Stoke to win, and BTTS: 14/1
Long-shot: Marko Arnautovic to score, and Stoke City to win 1-2 – 65/1
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The Gunners host Stoke tomorrow in scintillating form after back-to-back wins in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League, and looking to keep within touching distance of leaders Chelsea.
Arsenal’s win in Basel meant that The Gunners topped their Champions League group for the first time since 2011.
Stoke will need to be wary of hit-man Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean netted a hat-trick in last week’s demolition of West Ham.
Arsene Wenger will be further boosted by the news that right-back Hector Bellerin will be available after his injury has kept him out of action in recent weeks.
Petr Cech is expected to return in goals after David Ospina played against Basel in the week.
There is a real positive feeling around the Emirates at the moment, but Arsenal should be wary not to get complacent of tomorrow’s fixture, despite Stoke’s form in red side of North London. (P8 L8)
What the manager has said:
AW: “We have a good team dynamic, we have a very strong team spirit and we have more maturity, definitely. Unfortunately, the teams around us have more as well.
“You can assess the Premier League as very open and very interesting… December is a very important month and for us even more because we have some big games.
“Stoke is another challenge for us [to show] that we can reset, refocus and continue our development and take the points.”
Predicted Arsenal XI:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi; Alexis.
MATCH FACTS [BBC Sport]
- Arsenal have won their last 14 home matches against Stoke in all competitions, including eight Premier League games.
- The Potters have conceded 19 goals and scored just three in their eight league matches at the Emirates Stadium.
- Their last win at Arsenal was by 1-0 at Highbury in the top flight in August 1981, with Lee Chapman scoring the only goal.
- Arsenal could go 14 matches without defeat in the Premier League for the first time since a 16-match streak between December 2010 and April 2011.
- Their next draw will be their 500th in the top flight.
- Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 25 goals in his last 25 league games for Arsenal (18 goals and seven assists).
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored six league and cup goals this season – his best return since joining the Gunners.
- Theo Walcott is one shy of 100 career club goals (including five for Southampton).
- Stoke have lost only one of their last nine Premier League matches (W5, D3).
- They have conceded just five goals in those nine games since goalkeeper Lee Grant came into the team.
- The Potters have kept four clean sheets in their last seven Premier League fixtures, including their last two matches.
- Stoke’s last 54 Premier League goals (excluding own goals) have been scored by non-English players since Peter Crouch netted for the Potters on 24 May 2015.
Arsenal fan-favourite Ryan Shawcross is still set to miss out tomorrow for Stoke City, which could push Hughes to be bold and stick with the 3-4-3 formation that’s overseen Stoke’s recent rise in form.
Bruno Martins Indi is fit for Stoke despite fears of a broken jaw against Burnley last week when he was caught by Ashley Barnes, and Marko Arnautovic is fit despite also catching a knock.
Jonathan Walters could keep his place up front, but there may be a potential selection headache for Hughes in the centre of midfield as Joe Allen and Glenn Whelan are knocking on the doors for a return to the starting eleven.
It will be huge for Stoke tomorrow that they don’t show signs of their early season form, and any potential positive result here could be used as a building block for a Europa League spot.
What the manager has said:
MH: “In the past as a club we’ve struggled to get results at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge but we’ve been able to do that in recent times.
“This is the only one left standing so it would be great to get it out of the way. Our recent form is good and we’re in good heart so confidence is high, that is huge in football, so we’ll be able to benefit from that.
“It’s up to us to restrict them to minimal chances and make sure we’re creating chances when going the other way.”
Predicted Stoke City Starting XI:
Grant; Johnson, Martins Indi, Muniesa; Diouf, Imbula. Whelan, Pieters; Arnautovic, Shaqiri; Walters.