Arsenal vs. Stoke City
English Premier League
Sunday, January 11
5.30 AM PT/8.30 AM ET/2.30 PM BT
Emirates Stadium, London
Form: ARS A fun New Years' party with a slight hangover | STK stole blankets from homeless people on Christmas
US TV: NBCSN | Worldwide TV info: livesoccer.tv
After the insanity that was the Christmas schedule, relatively normal service resumes this month - Arsenal have a game a week for the rest of the month, and no midweek Champions League distractions again until February. The first game of this languid period is against our old friends Stoke City, currently 11th in the table on 26 points, seven points back of Arsenal.
The big news, of course, is the return of Mesut Özil for this game. He will more than likely start on the bench, what with having been out since October and all, but I expect he'll see fairly significant chunks of minutes in the next few games in order to get him back up to speed ASAP before the Champions League returns.
The last time these two sides met...well, the less said the better. Arsenal are in pretty good form now though, and with their first choice defense available, hopefully won't make as many stupid mistakes as they did in that game. Olivier Giroud is available for selection again following his stupid pointless suspension, and Aaron Ramsey may play a part as well. Still no indication who will be in goal for Arsenal, but I don't think Szcz Sr will be on the comp list at the door for this one.
Stoke are more or less fully healthy, with a trio of players, including Bokan Krkic, facing late fitness tests but otherwise they can roll out a strong squad, with only Mame Diouf (away on ANC duty) a guaranteed absentee.
As long as Arsenal can avoid the brain farts at the back, this is a very winnable game at home, and I can't wait to see how much of a part that Özil plays as he gets back to full match fitness.