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Saturday sees us against an in form Stoke which then kicks off a run of five games against top drawer opposition (Tottenham, Man Utd - league then cup - Arsenal & Liverpool, with the Arsenal game being the only home match).
But first some background. Stoke is polycentric, having been formed by a federation of six towns in the early 20th century. It took its name from Stoke-upon-Trent, where the town hall and the railway station are located. Hanley is the primary commercial centre. The four other towns are Burslem, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton. Famous people from Stoke include Neil Morrissey, Bruno Brooks, Frank Bough, Slash and the incredible Robbie Williams.
Our total record against Stoke is 36 wins, 24 draws & 34 losses. The first ever match between the two clubs ended in a 4-3 loss for us. Since the Premier League era begun we've only beaten them 4 times, most recently in 2013 when Jack Collison came off the bench to score the only goal at their ground. That win was our only one in the last nine games with four losses & four draws.
Stoke started the season worse than us with a draw on the opening day followed by four losses in a row, letting in 4 goals in games against Citeh, Spurs & Palace. Another two draws, against WBA & Man U, meant that they were winless after 6 games but they reeled off three wins on the trot now to move above us on 12 points. Those wins were the bottom three teams though so whether they're on a genuine roll remains to be seen but they should be confident.
In a funny quirk they've had a different player score a brace in each of the last three games.
We're going to be missing Winston Reid after his booking at Everton (I think) but apart from that we have no fresh injuries to report & Ayew got another 30 minutes of game time so he'll be pressing for a start.
I think we'll have too much for Stoke though & see us coming through for a 2-1 win.
Kouyate Collins Ogbog
Antonio Noble Obiang Cresswell
Lanzini Ayew Payet
I'd love to see Fletcher get some game time rather than Zaza.