After a long fortnight of international football, the Premier League is back and the mighty Arsenal play host to relegation-threatened Stoke City at The Emirates on Sunday.
Good news that arrived during the international break is the potential return to fitness of Alex Lacazette, who could be recalled to the squad for the first time since early February. After missing both of England’s friendlies, Jack Wilshere could also be fit to play a part against Stoke as Steve Bould confirmed that he trained well and was OK Wednesday, heading into Thursday’s session.
Stoke currently sit 19th in the Premier League and are struggling for points. They come to The Emirates low on confidence and being without Choupo-Moting, their attack won’t be at its best. Charlie Adam starts a three-game ban for his recent red card, and Stoke will also be without Afellay after Paul Lambert banished him from first team training. However, danger man Shaqiri will be a constant threat that the likes of Koscielny and Mustafi need to keep an eye on.
Although Stoke grabbed a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture earlier this season, fast forward to April and this is a completely different Stoke side; new manager, no confidence and second-bottom. Arsenal should be putting this game to bed early, and the manager should therefore have the opportunity to rest some of the more important players ahead of Thursday’s big crunch game against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League. Lacazette may need some minutes on Sunday in order to be able to feature Thursday and with Aubameyang cup-tied, it is vital Lacazette returns fit and firing.
I fully expect a professional performance from Arsenal in this one, with Aubameyang getting on the scoresheet. A strong XI will start and should deliver early. Get Stoke on the back foot and their lack of confidence will takeover, giving Arsenal freedom to control and manage the game to a positive end result.
Assuming the return of a few regulars, my expected lineup is:
Prediction: 3-1 win, Aubameyang, Ozil and Ramsey on the scoresheet.