Swansea need a miracle to stay in the Premier League for another season even if they are able to defeat already-relegated Stoke at the Liberty Stadium (3pm Sunday).
Coming into the final weekend of the season, Swansea are 18th in the table, with only Southampton one place ahead now within their reach. The problem is that they are three points adrift and have a goal difference that is a full nine goals worse.
While Southampton do face free-scoring champions Manchester City on Sunday, even a six-goal defeat for them there would require Swansea to win by four goals against Stoke. Not only do Saints have a better goal difference, but Swansea have also scored 10 goals less than them, meaning that they need to create a 10-goal swing in goal difference in order to stay up.
That is a tall ask for a team who have scored less goals than any other in the Premier League this season. Swansea have notched just 27 goals over the course of the campaign and have only scored more than once in a single match on five occasions. They have only managed four goals once and even then, their winning margin in that match was only three.
Despite their obvious problems in front of goal, Swansea still looked in a good position to beat the drop as recently as a month ago. The arrival of Carlos Carvalhal to replace the sacked Paul Clement towards the end of December triggered a run of five wins (including triumphs over Arsenal and Liverpool), five draws and three defeats that gave them a five-point cushion over Southampton with five matches to play.
However, three consecutive defeats saw them slip back towards the precipice before Southampton left them clinging on by their fingernails by recording a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday. Swansea struggled to create chances and then had no reply once their visitors went ahead with around twenty minutes left to play. They stumbled to a meek defeat.
After seven years in the top flight, most of which saw them placed comfortably in mid-table, Swansea are now all but certain to be playing Championship football next season.
That fate has already been confirmed for their visitors on Sunday. Stoke were promoted to the Premier League three years before Swansea, had never finished lower than 14th prior to this season and even secured three consecutive ninth-place finishes between 2013-14 and 2015-16. Now, though, the second tier awaits following a disastrous campaign.
The situation was bad enough when the club sacked Mark Hughes early into the new year. Stoke were, at that stage, placed 18th in the league, a point shy of safety. Coming into the final weekend of the season, they are now bottom of the table, six points off Southampton in 17th. They have picked up just 10 points in their 15 matches since Hughes’ sacking. Paul Lambert has been unable to inspire a turnaround; indeed, things have only got worse under his watch.
Lambert has succeeded in tightening up a defensive unit that conceded over two goals per match under Hughes, but in doing so has nullified any attacking threat Stoke once possessed. They have scored just 10 times since Hughes departed, have only won once and come into Sunday’s match on a 13-match winless streak.
It is also difficult to be too optimistic about Stoke’s chances of bouncing straight back into the top flight. They are likely to lose the few prime-age talents they have, the squad in general tips towards the experienced end of the scale and it isn’t like they have an abundance of young players coming through. It will be a tough job for Lambert or whoever the club decides to turn to if he or they trigger the release clause in his contract this summer.
If Swansea were to pick their ideal opponents given what they need to achieve on Sunday then Stoke would likely be it, but even so, there has been little in their performances this season to suggest they are capable of getting the result they need, even if Manchester City do them a favour by trouncing Southampton. A win they can do; a thrashing, not so much.
Our Preview’s Swansea vs. Stoke Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Swansea to win @ best odds of 20/23 with Betfair.