Preview: Arsenal v Stoke City

Arsenal will look to stay in touch with Premier League leaders Chelsea at the top of the table when they welcome a resilient Stoke City to the Emirates Stadium in Saturday’s Premier League clash.

Premier League
10 December 2016
Kickoff: 23:00 HKT

Venue: Emirates Stadium (London)
Referee: L. Mason
Assistants: S. Beck, M. Wilke
Fourth official: P. Tierney

Head-to-head summary:

Arsenal 92 46 21 25
Stoke City 92 25 21 46

Previous encounter:

Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal (17 January 2016) Premier League

Players to watch:

Last season v Stoke. Coquelin➡️Ozil➡️Walcott➡️goal. More of the same tomorrow? #AFCvSCFC #COYG

A video posted by Arsenal Official (@arsenal) on

With 18 goals and seven assists in his last 25 appearances for Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez is in some red-hot form for the Gunners. However, the 27-year-old has yet to sign a new deal at the club amid news that a team in China are reportedly willing to make him the highest paid player in the world.

Recent links to Chelsea could also potentially work to unsettle the Chile international. Yet, Sanchez has proved to be a consummate professional during his three seasons in London and will no doubt be a real threat to Stoke City’s defence on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Xherdan Shaqiri has shown glimpses of the kind of form for Stoke that saw him rated so highly by the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan earlier in his career. By scoring three times for the Potters in 2016/17, he has matched his goal return for the whole of last season already.

However, the Switzerland international has told the Daily Mail he may want to leave City in pursuit of Champions League football in future. With that said, he will no doubt want to prove he can still perform against the best by putting on a sparking individual display against the Gunners.

Team form and manager quotes:

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants to prove that his team can be genuine title contenders. The French coach believes that the month of December is important as the Gunners seek to show they can stay in the race till the very end.

He told the BBC: “You can assess the Premier League as very open and very interesting. December is a very important month and for us even more because we have some big games. Stoke is another challenge for us (to show) that we can reset, refocus and continue our development and take the points.”

For the visitors, Stoke City boss Mark Hughes believes recent improvement in form stands his side in good stead as they visit the English capital. In addition, the Potters have lost just once in their last five games played on their travels which includes a 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

He told reporters, “Our recent form is good and we’re in good heart so confidence is high, that is huge in football, so we’ll be able to benefit from that.”

Team news:

Hector Bellerin will be assessed before the game for Arsenal to see if he has recovered from an ankle injury. Francis Coquelin returns after suspension but Mathieu Debuchy, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla remain out injured.

Bruno Martins Indi is available after recovering from a cheekbone injury for City. However, defenders Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron are out with a calf and knee problem respectively. A boost for the Potters is that Marko Arnautovic is fit despite picking up a knock in the win over Burnley.