Arsenal are out to avenge a traumatic defeat at Stoke as they play the Clarets again at the Emirates Stadium on today (Sunday).
The Gunners were beaten 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium on Dec. 6 after producing a calamitous first-half defensive performance.
Peter Crouch, Bojan and Jonathan Walters all netted as the Potters built a 3-0 lead at the interval. Arsenal rallied after the break with Santi Cazorla converting a penalty on 68 minutes and Aaron Ramsey volleying home from a corner two minutes later, but the Londoners couldn’t find a equaliser.
To make matters worse for the Gunners, defender Calum Chambers was sent off on 78 minutes after being shown a second yellow card. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said after the match that his side had been ‘too soft’ against Stoke.
Arsenal’s pre-match plans have been boosted by news that Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil has returned to training and will be in the squad to face Stoke after being sidelined since early October with a knee injury.
Wenger admits his side have missed the playmaking talents of the World Cup winner.
“He is an exceptional football player,” Wenger told his club’s website. “He always gives you continuity in your game.
“He’s a very creative player and ideally you want all your best players available.”
The Gunners, who are sixth in the table 13 points adrift of joint leaders Chelsea and Manchester City, saw a four-match unbeaten run in the Premier League end with a 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day, with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny making errors for both goals.
On a positive note, Arsenal began their defence of the FA Cup three days later with a 2-0 home win against Hull City as Per Mertesacker and Alexis Sanchez both netted goals. The Gunners beat Hull 3-2 in last season’s FA Cup final at Wembley on May 17to end a nine-year wait for a trophy.
Stoke have moved up to 11th place after taking seven points from their three-match festive season schedule, with wins against Everton and West Bromwich Albion, plus a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at the Britannia.
The Potters also beat Wrexham 3-1 at home on Sunday in an FA Cup third-round tie with Marko Arnautovic and Stephen Ireland – who hit two – scoring the goals.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes was in a bullish mood at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We have had a tremendous festive period and we want to build upon that,” Hughes told reporters. “It’s difficult to say how far we can go. We had a good season last time round and got up to ninth.
“If we could do that again then we would be delighted. My teams historically grow stronger as the season goes on, whereas many others burn brightly initially and then fade somewhat.”
In addition to Ozil, Arsenal also have Ramsey available after hamstring trouble, while Olivier Giroud returns following suspension. Danny Welbeck (thigh), Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby (both calf) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are still absent.
Marc Muniesa, Victor Moses and Bojan all return to the Stoke squad, while Germany defender Philipp Wollscheid is also available after signing on loan for the rest of the season from Bayer Leverkusen. Mame Biram Diouf is away on African Nations Cup duty with Senegal.
Stoke will be looking for their first Premier League win at Arsenal, having lost their last six top-flight games away to the Gunners by a 14-3 aggregate.
Source: ScoreMobile FC
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