Stoke City welcome Middlesborough on the weekend and this Championship clash look like a test of The Potters play-off credentials with Middlesborough sitting 3rd in the ladder and a win possibly taking Stoke City to within 2 points of the play-off places. We take a look at the three Stoke City players that will be crucial to The Potters securing a victory against Tony Pulis’s men.
The Stoke City youngster was impressive in their win against Bristol City as he showed maturity to help his side hold on to the win as they faced wave after wave Bristol City attack at the end. One senses that the youngster is starting to find his feet after being thrown into the deep end last season in the Premier League with his debut at Etihad Stadium. It will be interesting to see whether he or Cuco Martina starts against the Teesiders but should Edwards start he will have to be extremely focused in his duel with Stewart Downing.
The spearhead in the 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation, Benik Afobe will have as sharp as a razor to pounce on any chances available against a Middlesborough team with the best defense in the Championship this season. Afobe has the physicality and ability to score against Middlesborough but at the moment he is the Romelu Lukaku of the Championship, both play in teams that are rigid as a bar of metal and both look bereft of confidence.
Man-of-the-Match last time out against Bristol City and fully deserved as The Three Lions custodian showed his full repertoire of saves. He will once again be crucial in this tightly contested match, both teams are more on the defensive side and a goal could be decisive in this game.
This Middlesbrough is the type of game, that Stoke City need to start winning to prove they are ready to challenge and fight for their return to the Premier League. The abovementioned players will have not just have a role to play in the next match but for the whole of the season, if Stoke City are to return to the top flight.