Talking Tactics | Stoke City v Swansea City
Swansea City earned a superb 1-0 win over Blackburn on Saturday evening and they'll be looking to follow that up with all the spoils against Stoke in midweek.
Here, WhoScored.com preview Tuesday's game, including what to expect from the Potters, the key battle and a key stat.
What to expect from Stoke
A run of one win in seven has seen Stoke drop away in the race to secure a play-off spot and they head into the midweek round of games six points off the top six and just four above the Swans in the table.
Swansea returned to south Wales with all spoils in this game last season, and would love nothing more than a repeat of that 2-1 victory as they seek to follow up Saturday's impressive 1-0 win over promotion chasing Blackburn with another three points.
Stoke may have a solid home record this term having lost just five league games at the bet365 Stadium in 2021-22, but four of those have come in their last five outings in front of their own fans. Indeed, only Reading (9) and Barnsley (6) are currently on a longer home winless run than the Potters (5).
Had the season started at the beginning of this calendar year, then Stoke would sit just one point above the relegation zone.
Michael O'Neill will be desperate to shake his Potters side out of their current form and he has recently moved away from the three-man backline to a 4-2-3-1 system, which yielded a draw with Huddersfield at the end of January and then a 2-0 win over Wigan in the FA Cup at the weekend.
As such, O'Neill may resist the urge to tinker with the setup, which could see Liam Moore and Josh Maja make their league debuts for the Potters having impressed against the Latics, the latter bagging 14 minutes into his first appearance for Stoke.
The move to freshen things up seems to have had the ideal boost for O'Neill's side, who'll look to oversee his side getting back to winning ways on home turf.
While Stoke have moved away from the three-man backline, it's unlikely that Russell Martin will follow suit. Martin started Michael Obafemi and Joel Piroe in attack against Blackburn and, despite being reduced to 10 men shortly into the second half, he could continue with that pairing with the former bagging his second league goal of the season for the Swans.
However, it was January arrival Cyrus Christie who came away from the 1-0 win on Saturday with the WhoScored.com man of the match award.
Christie has replaced Ethan Laird well down the Swans right flank and was good value for his rating of 7.69, that enough to make the EFL team of the week.
Much of that was down to his excellent defensive work with the 29-year-old making more tackles and interceptions combined (9) than any other Swansea player has managed in a league match this season.
Stoke may resist the urge to routinely attack down the left, with just 36% of their attacks this season coming down this side of the pitch, but a higher proportion of their offensive moves came down the left against Huddersfield (39%), which suggests a change in set-up will benefit Josh Tymon and D'Margio Wright-Phillips, who could well start at left-back and on the left wing, respectively, on Tuesday night.
Either way, Swansea, and Christie will need to be alert if they are to return to Wales with all the spoils.
One of Stoke's three statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'finishing scoring chances'. Considering they average 9.1 key passes per game, the fifth most in the division, the issue in their stuttering promotion push has been an inability to score with greater regularity.
While the Swans are enduring an indifferent campaign, they earned their 12th clean sheet of the season against Blackburn on Saturday. Only Bournemouth (13) have kept more in the Championship this term.
With Christie among those putting in such a fine defensive performance against Blackburn, Swansea will have their sights set on matching the Cherries' return in midweek.