Stoke City v Arsenal: Premier League preview
Stoke City will make their Britannia Stadium bow this season, when they host Arsenal in the English Premier League on Sunday.
Both sides drew their domestic season openers, with the Londoners held at home by Sunderland 0-0, and City conceding a penalty late away to Reading in a 1-1 stalemate.
Arsene Wenger’s men already showed that they missed the killer instinct of departed striker Robin van Persie, as they failed to penetrate the Sunderland goal at the Emirates.
And they will find it hard to earn their first win this weekend, as Stoke lost just four home Premier League games last season and none of them were to the title contenders (Sunderland 1-0, WBA 2-1, QPR 3-2 and Newcastle 3-1), which shows they know how to handle the big clubs when they visit.
Van Persie scored three goals in two matches against Stoke last season, and the Dutchman’s absence could be telling but one that Wenger’s side is going to have to come to terms with sooner rather than later.
Conversely, Stoke will be hoping striker Peter Crouch can continue his run against Arsenal, after he scored in both fixtures against the side last term.
Stoke have just the lone injury concern, with Jermaine Pennant (thigh) in doubt and set for a slow start to the season after he was denied access to the United States to join his side for their pre-season tour due to a drink-driving conviction.
Arsenal already have an extensive injury list, with Laurent Koscielny (calf), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (calf), Bacary Sagna (leg), Emmanuel Frimpong (knee) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) all in the wars.
Sagna and Koscielny are two absences that will worry Wenger, as Arsenal’s defence is their most vulnerable part on the pitch.
If Crouch and strike partner Jon Walters can wreak havoc up front, it could further deepen Arsenal’s woes early in the season.