Swansea City are all but safe from relegation now and will turn their heads towards climbing up the table, but with a very difficult schedule down the stretch this game will be one of the few they can realistically achieve a win.
With Stoke City also without a number of key players due to injury, some might dare to say Swansea could be considered favourites despite historically not performing well in this fixture.
Pick a system, Francesco
Francesco Guidolin surprised everyone last time out by playing a 4-3-3 against Aston Villa but moving Gylfi Sigurdsson out to the left flank, where he generally looked awkward despite playing a big part in the game’s only goal.
Between the asymmetrical 4-3-3, the diamond formation and the more natural 4-2-3-1, it seems impossible to successfully predict what’s inside Guidolin’s mind as he sets out his side.
The Italian might want to be more conservative away from home by selecting three central midfielders and put Sigurdsson on the wing again, but it wouldn’t explain why he did so at home to Aston Villa.
With Jefferson Montero and Modou Barrow only completing one training session before the game, perhaps the diamond could be employed.
Looking for back-to-back clean sheets
Lukasz Fabianski: The Pole has started every league game so far this season and that is unlikely to change as he seemed to come through the international break without picking up an injury.
Angel Rangel: For a while there seemed to be real competition for this spot in the team between Angel Rangel and Kyle Naughton until recently; the Spaniard looks to have pulled ahead and become first choice. However, with neither really impressing this could be one of the roles where the club look to strengthen in the summer.
Federico Fernandez: There have been some calls to drop him from the starting eleven, but with only Jordi Amat and Kyle Bartley waiting in the wings it would be a drop in quality, so Federico Fernandez should start another game alongside the skipper.
Ashley Williams: There were long periods during the game against Aston Villa where the away side were the better team, and it took some great efforts from the defence including Ashley Williams to keep them at bay. The only concern will be that he did play twice for Wales in the international break, but Mr. Dependable will more than likely start.
Stephen Kingsley: Neil Taylor missed the last game due to injury, and young Scot Stephen Kingsley deputised once again and impressed. Considering he had no help on the left flank because Sigurdsson was playing infield more often than not it’s fair to say that Kingsley had a good game. Taylor returned from injury for Wales against Ukraine on Monday, but Kingsley more than deserves a chance to further stake his claim to start for this team.
The diamond is back
Jack Cork: One of the contenders for Swansea’s Player of the Year, and has been outstanding since Christmas. He could play on the right side of the diamond, his more familiar role since moving to South Wales 15 months ago.
Leon Britton: He recently revealed he has been playing through a heel injury, but with Glenn Whelan and Gianelli Imbula playing very well as a duo lately for the Potters the midfield battle will be very difficult to win, and Swansea have been struggling in that department without Leon Britton recently.
Leroy Fer: His Swansea career has been full of highs and lows, finding some consistency between now and the end of the season will be key if Leroy Fer wants to make his loan move permanent in the summer.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: Back in his rightful role has an attacking midfielder. Being a winger really didn’t suit the Icelandic international. Sigurdsson has been one of the best players in the entire league since the turn of the year, and putting him in his preferred role is crucial if Swansea want to pick up enough points to drag themselves over the line.
Wide forwards could return
Alberto Paloschi: Bafetimbi Gomis was recalled for the win against Aston Villa, but didn’t really make as much of a mark on the game as he would have liked and with Andre Ayew also ruled out of the trip it’s likely that January signing Alberto Paloschi will be one of two wide-forwards.
Wayne Routledge: It’s unlikely that Guidolin will want to use two actual strikers in an away game, meaning Wayne Routledge should be preferred ahead of Montero in the wide-forward role he has impressed in this season and the last.