Stoke City have had a fairly average start to the season but Mark Hughes side will be looking to change that with the first true test coming this weekend against Walter Mazzarri’s strong Watford team.
Stoke City will be looking for a quick turnaround of form after their narrow defeat to Bournemouth last week. However, will a solid Watford team halt their advances?
On Paper - Stoke
Easily the most pressing concern for the Potters will be the absence of their star man, Joe Allen, who has been ruled out of the game on Saturday. Allen’s phenomenal work rate so far, this season has proved invaluable and it will be interesting to see where Stoke lie without his talents on the field.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though as Hughes has alternate replacements in waiting such as Bojan, who, despite performing inadequately in the number 10 role against Bournemouth last week, is still a solid player. Other options are available to Hughes as well though such as record signing Gianelli Imbula, so it will be about which tactical approach Mark Hughes decides.
The offensive play will be where this game will be won and lost and without Joe Allen, it seems Stoke are looking considerably weaker. To compensate for this, their big players Xherdan shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Wilfried Bony and Bojan will have to have strong performances if Stoke are to have any chances in this match.
On Paper – Watford
Looking at this upcoming clash it would be plausible to suggest that this may be a comfortable win for Watford. The advantage of the home support at Vicarage Road and a more confident mentality after their recent win against Leicester puts the Hornets slightly on top of Stoke.
Watford Head Coach Walter Mazzarri’s tactical implementation of the 3-4-3 formation has meant that the spark in their attacking force, Odion Ighalo, is committed to the bench. Currently on a total of 99 goals for the hornets, there is no denying Ighalo’s menace in front of goal but menaces lie elsewhere in Watford’s repertoire with Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney - on five and three goals so far this season respectively.
With this in mind, Watford are certainly in a stronger position coming into this fixture. The past as well seems to support this judgment with Watford winning six out eight league ties against the Potters. But can Stoke pull one out of the bag and grab some vital points?
What are people saying?
The BBC’s own Mark Lawrenson comments that “Stoke are not fully firing up front” due to the absence of Joe Allen and suggests without him, it will be hard for Stoke to make many dangerous chances during the game.
In contrast with this though, Sky Sports’ Paul Merson suggests that there “isn’t too much between the two teams” and that their last fixture against Bournemouth was “disappointing”. Stoke will be looking for an incentive to repair the last result and a win against Watford will be at the top of their agenda.
Joe Allen has been the man pulling all of the strings at Stoke this season and many think with his absence, Watford have little to fear if they face the same side that lost to Bournemouth last week.