Arsenal vs. Stoke City: match preview

STOKE ON TRENT ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Glenn Whelan (L) of Stoke battles for the ball with Marcos Painetr of Brighton during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 5th Round match between Stoke City and Brighton & Hove Albion at Britannia Stadium on February 19 2011 in Stoke on Trent England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Kickoff: Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2:45 PM EST, Emirates Stadium
TV Coverage: foxsoccer.tv, Fox Soccer iPhone app
SBN Stoke Coverage: SBN does not have a Stoke blog...
but we do have a lovely selection of MMA blogs for your enjoyment

Arsenal welcome tenth-place Stoke City to the Emirates tomorrow for round 27 of the Premier League.  Arsenal currently sit four points behind leaders Manchester United, who are off to Marseille for a Champions League match tomorrow.

The Potters have not yet faced Arsenal this year, but memories of last year's encounters remain fresh for reasons that don't need elaboration; suffice it to say that Stoke are not the most popular team in North London.  For a while, they flirted with the European places but have cooled off considerably since the autumn.  Their last few fixtures have been a mixed bag, and they now have a -2 goal difference.  Former Arsenal player Jermaine Pennant made a permanent move to the Britannia in December, and Aston Villa striker John Carew joined up on loan in January to add to their already formidable aerial presence.

Stoke's only injury is to Mamady Sidibe, who is out until August with the dreaded Achilles of Doom.  Arsenal are still waiting for their own achilles victim to return to the side.

The Gunners will also have to do without the services of Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny tomorrow; the former has a slight hamstring problem, and the latter a back complaint.  Both should be available for the Carling Cup final on Sunday (fingers crossed).  Abou Diaby still is suspended and still has a calf problem.  Everyone else is available for the Gunners aside from long-termers Lukasz Fabianski and Emmanuel Frimpong.

Crucial to tomorrow's proceedings, as always against Stoke, will be minimizing the chances from set pieces and Rory Delap throw-ins.  With noted aerial specialists Carew and Kenwyne Jones around, Stoke will look to launch the ball into Arsenal's penalty area as much as possible.  Wojciech Szczesny faces a stern test.

Possible lineup:

Szczesny

Sagna        Squillaci       Djourou       Clichy

Song      Wilshere

Fabregas

Walcott      Chamakh      Arshavin

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