Stoke City are set to host Arsenal on Saturday in a high-stakes Premier League matchup.
The Gunners, who trail Chelsea by one point in the league table coming into the weekend, are one week removed from a 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland at the Emirates. Meanwhile, the Potters are fresh off a shutout loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford and aiming to avoid relegation.
Mark Hughes' squad enters Saturday's clash just three points clear of the bottom three.
Therefore, both sides will have plenty to play for this weekend inside the Britannia Stadium.
With kick-off on the horizon, let's get you set with everything you need to know.
Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Start Time: 10 a.m. ET/3 p.m. GMT
Where: Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, England
TV: Premier League Extra Time
Stoke City: 26.5 percent
Arsenal: 46.4 percent
Draw: 27.2 percent
*Odds according to Bloomberg Sports.
Top Storyline: Arsene Wenger Backs Premier League Ahead of Stoke Clash
Despite a slew of failures to start the Champions League round of 16, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is convinced the Premier League is the best the world has to offer and is confident that recent English struggles in the European tournament don't highlight a "trend," according to ESPN FC's Kevin Palmer:
First of all, you have to remember all four teams came out of the group stage. That proves that the level is there. You cannot judge a general trend on one game.
Man City played with 10 men, Arsenal played with 10 men. City played against Barcelona, Arsenal played against Bayern Munich, the European champion. The other two teams are still in position, Chelsea and United, where they can turn the result around. Let’s wait for the second game before we discuss a trend. It is one game and very different opponents.
Wenger went on to proclaim the Premier League as the world's most competitive professional football league, highlighting the depth from top to bottom, per Palmer:
Honestly, the Premier League is the most difficult in the world. The level is good from first to 20th. This is the only league that has this. There are 10 other teams in Europe who can beat the Premier League [teams]. This is what we have seen.
There's no doubt that Wenger's comments are sure to come up again with Arsenal on the brink of elimination in the Champions League and currently in a battle for the Premier League title.
For now, Wenger's squad will try to defend his argument against a lackluster Stoke side. A defeat to one of the league's basement dwellers would boost the Frenchman's case but would also come at a severe cost as the Gunners are aiming to keep pace with Chelsea atop the league table.
Arsenal won easily the last time these two clubs met back in September at the Emirates, prevailing 3-1 after scoring the last two goals. Although possession was even throughout, the Gunners created more quality scoring chances, which should prove to be the difference once again on Saturday.
There's a reason these two clubs currently sit on opposite ends of the league table. Arsenal have more top-tier talent at their disposal and are also among the league's top defensive squads.
And when you consider that the Potters have won just five of their 13 league home matches thus far, it's not difficult to see why the Gunners enter enemy territory as the favorites to pull out three points.
After going 2-1-1 in the month of February, Arsenal are poised to begin March on a positive note, with three hard-earned points in Stoke-on-Trent.
Plus, with Mesut Ozil set to return to the Gunners' lineup this weekend, Wenger will have yet another weapon in his pocket.
You can bet Stoke will play inspired football in their stadium on Saturday, but it's Arsenal who will prevail as they look to build momentum ahead of next week's FA Cup quarter-finals and Champions League rematch with Bayern Munich. -
Stoke City 1, Arsenal 2
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