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When Victor Moses realised he couldn’t part the red sea that was the Swansea City defence last week, his dive to win a penalty was nothing short of scandalous.
In fact the scandal was three-fold, in that it was hard to decide which was the bigger disgrace; Moses for the tumble, referee Michael Oliver being fooled by it, or Mark Hughes for defending it. All three should be fined for bringing the game into disrepute, yet they won’t be. Swansea manager and ex-Saint Garry Monk, who merely stated the facts after the event, will be.
Something seems quite wrong there to me.
Ronald Koeman will need to be ready for the Potters’ ‘do anything to win’ attitude and not react to the antics that have gained them a bad name. It should come as no surprise, they represent the same combatant style that manager Hughes did as a player, and fair play to them, they’ve become a difficult side to beat and will undoubtedly be a Premier League team again next season.
People often talk about Stoke in the same vein as the famous Southampton ‘Ale House Brawlers’ of the early 70’s, but it is easy to overlook their ability to win football matches.
This game represents a stern test for Koeman’s team and their ability to dig in and scrap. It certainly won’t be the walk in the park that Sunderland became last week and any positive result should be met with gratitude.
Defensively Hughes’ side will be difficult to break down and with an array of ‘agricultural’ footballers like Ryan Shawcross on hand it will be a physical battle for Graziano Pelle up top. The Italian is no shrinking violet though, and I get the impression Shawcross might not have it all his own way, and if the official can follow Michael Oliver’s lead from last week and start pulling him up for holding, you can expect at least one spot kick for the home side.
If the hosts can come away from this game with yet another Premier League victory, Ronald Koeman will have proved he has the tactical nous to mix it with all styles. If he can do it and send Hughes and his men back to the Potteries with a bruise or too, all the better.