Somehow optimism runs through my veins still, with just three games left to play you’ll struggle to find any other Stoke City fans who feel the same as I do.
At 1/25 relegation favourites, my club are seen by everyone as a sure bet to be relegated from the Premier League to the Championship next season, but with three games to go, the question many people ask, is HOW can I think we can avoid the drop.
Well I’ve looked at the remaining games for ourselves, Southampton and Swansea, with West Brom needing the greatest of great escapes to stave their impending doom, and I genuinely CAN see a path that sees us remain a Premier League side come May 14th.
Next weekend sees Stoke travel to Merseyside to play the free scoring Champions League semi-finalists Liverpool, and let’s be honest not one single Potter is holding out for anything in that game, to keep the score respectable is all I ask of Paul Lambert’s men. But, on the same day fellow relegation candidates Swansea host Chelsea, again you’d expect no points to be dropped by last season’s champions. Former Stoke City manager Mark Hughes and his Southampton side host Bournemouth in an all-south coast clash, and from that I can see a Bournemouth win or a draw for the under-performing Southampton. Meaning that barring any shocks, next weekend’s table from 17th down is likely to remain the same.
With four points still separating 19th to 17th in Stoke and Swansea, the following weekend will be the turning point. In their final home game of the season, Stoke host Crystal Palace who not that long ago were involved in the fight themselves, but with 35 points look to be safe. I can see Stoke winning that game, scraping it by the skin of their teeth in fact, it will be the most IMPORTANT game of their Premier League history. That puts them within one point of the Swans who travel to Bournemouth, a strong team at home who can (hopefully) brush the Swans aside, meaning the gap would remain one point come the end of the weekend. As for Southampton, they visit Everton who are tough to beat under Sam Allardyce so I can see that as another loss for Sparky and his side.
Both Swansea and Southampton have a game in hand, and lo and behold it’s a stand-off between the two in an evening kick off on the 8th May, a game that could ultimately relegate both Stoke and Southampton or leave the fight to the final day. A Swansea win would mean both Stoke and the Saints would be consigned to Championship football next season, but a draw or a Southampton win would leave a tasty final day.
A tasty final day that sees Stoke end their disappointing season in South Wales against, you guessed it, Swansea. Not necessarily a happy hunting ground for Stoke in recent years but nevertheless an opportunity for Stoke to seal their own fate. A Stoke win following the outcomes mentioned above would mean they would save themselves and send former boss Mark Hughes down, as well as the Swans. However if it is that Southampton beat the Swans in their midweek fixture it would mean that if Southampton were to pull off a miracle on the final day and beat Manchester City at St Mary’s, due to a far inferior goal difference both Stoke and Swansea would be relegated, a desperately sad day it could be at the Liberty Stadium.
If you’re a Stoke fan and you’re reading this, I know it’s tough and this has been a dismal season, but let’s really rally behind the team for what could be a final three games in the Premier League for a while and maybe, just maybe, we can pull off the great escape!