Carabao Cup Preview – Stoke City (a)

Blackpool return to competitive action this weekend, travelling to the Bet365 stadium in the Carabao Cup. It will be the third competitive game under Neil Critchley, and hopefully the new boss’ first win, in our first visit to Stoke since 2010.

Match preview

While we haven’t played a competitive game since Tranmere on 10th March, Stoke’s Championship season didn’t finish until 22nd July when they beat Nottingham Forest 4-1 on the final day to prevent them from getting into the play-offs. They won three of their last four league games, drawing the other, and were one of the in form teams of the division after the Covid-enforced break in March. They only had three weeks off, before pre-season kicked off again earlier this month. They’ve had two games in pre-season so far, beating Linfield 1-0 away, then losing to Burton Albion last Saturday in their most recent outing.

What can we expect?

Stoke finished a disappointing 15th place last year and looked to be in a relegation battle for most of the campaign, but the appointment of former Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill in November, when Stoke were bottom of the table, started their climb out of the relegation zone. O’Neill won 14 of his 32 league games in charge, earning them 48 points out of the 56 they won last season, and they’ll be expecting to finish much higher this season following the summer signings of John Obi Mikel, Morgan Fox, Steven Fletcher and turning the loan of James Chester permanent. Tom Ince is an option on the right, though hasn’t been a regular starter.

They played 3-5-2 or 4-5-1 towards the back end of last season, but can equally play 4-4-2. Chester tends to accompanying either one or both of Bruno Martins, Indi and Danny Batth in defence, ahead of former England keeper Jack Butland who had shaky form last year. Former Huddersfield Town captain Tommy Smith usually the right-back position, while James McClean fills in either on the left of defence or midfield. Sam Clucas is almost an ever-present in midfield, alongside either Jordan Cousins or former Pool man Jordan Thompson. Up front, Stoke tended to use Wales International Sam Vokes, who isn’t fit for this one, but they have Benik Afobe and new signing Fletcher who can lead the line, with Nick Powell in support. They also have Lee Gregory and Tyrese Campbell as options up front and much of it will depend on fitness.

Key man

Clucas makes the Potters tick in central midfield. He made 46 appearances last campaign in all competitions, scoring 11 goals and making 3 assists. Tough tackling and combative, the left-footer is composed in possession and is willing to take a risk to make things happen in the opposition half. He’s worn the captain’s armband in Ryan Shawcross’ absence and stands out as a key man under O’Neill.

Injury news

Joe Nuttall’s knee injury aside, Blackpool have a clean bill of health. Demetri Mitchell and the unknown player from Tuesday night’s pre-season defeat by Blackburn will both be ineligible as they’re both on trial.

Sam Vokes, Joe Allen, Thibaud Verlinden and Ryan Shawcross are confirmed to be out for the Potters. John Obi Mikel will undergo a late fitness test and may make the bench.

Predicted line-ups

Stoke: Davies, Smith, Batth, Chester, Martins Indi, Thompson, Clucas, McClean, Powell, Afobe, Gregory

Blackpool: Maxwell, Turton, Ekpiteta, Thorniley, Husband, Robson, Ward, Anderson, Kaikai, Hamilton, Yates

Odds

Match result (Bet365)

Stoke to win: 4/7

Draw: 3/1

Blackpool to win: 9/2

First goalscorer (SkyBet)

Former Pool man Tom Ince is 13/2 for the first goal on Saturday with SkyBet.
Gary Madine is bizarrely Blackpool’s shortest odds despite the fact he’s highly unlikely to start. Sullay Kaikai is 12/1, while CJ Hamilton who bagged the first against Everton last Saturday is a tempting 18/1 with SkyBet.

utmp tip: Both teams to score is 4/5 with Bet365 which looks likely given Stoke are fairly free scoring and we’re likely to also give it a good go.

Previous meetings

Our history against Stoke – source: 11v11.com

We’ve played Stoke 71 times in our history, winning 22, drawing 20 and losing on 29 occasions. While we haven’t played them since our Premier League season in 2010-11, we played each other pretty regularly between 1998 and 2011 and seem to like drawing each other in cup competitions.

Our record hasn’t been the best over that period, winning 4 of the last 15 meetings and losing 8. Our most recent visit aside, our previous victory at the Bet365 Stadium (formerly the Britannia) came in Division Two back in 1998 with a 3-1 win. Stoke then visited Bloomfield Road five times in 16 months, beating us four times and our only win coming in the FA Cup, while we were beaten twice each in Division Two and the Auto Windscreens Shield (remember that? No, me neither).

We beat them at home 3-2 in our run to winning the LDV Vans Trophy in 2002, then got a point in Division 2 in the same year, and also secured a point in our visit under Simon Grayson in the Championship back in 2008. Since then, there were a memorable 4-3 defeat in the League Cup in 2009, and we took four points off them in our season in the Premier League.

Our last visit to Stoke

Image credit: Matt Scrafton on Twitter

Who can forget our last visit to the Bet365 Stadium, in the Premier League on 11th December 2010? DJ Campbell scored the only goal of the game and as we left the ground we were up to 10th in the table. Unfortunately, social media wasn’t really a thing back then so we’ve been unable to find any footage from the game. Please get in touch if you have any hi-res videos of the goal!

One who played for both

Look no further than Sir Stanley Matthews with this one. The first ever winner of the Ballon d’Or, Matthews is a club legend at both clubs. He played for Stoke from the age of 17 to 32, making 259 appearances. The war halted Matthews’ career from age 24-30, as he joined the RAF and was based close to Blackpool, playing a number of games for Stoke, Blackpool and England, though none of them were competitive. After the war, he played a couple more seasons with Stoke before he made the move to Bloomfield Road, expected to play a couple more years. As is well documented, that wasn’t to be the case, with Matthews going on to play 14 years in tangerine, famously winning the FA Cup in 1953 having previously reached the final in both 1948 and 1951. He won the Ballon d’Or in ’56, at the age of 41, before returning to Stoke in 1961. Matthews then played four more years there, in addition to a couple of loans with Toronto City, before finally hanging up his boots at the grand old age of 50.

Other familiar faces

Charlie Adam needs no introduction to us, having scored 28 goals for us in just over 2 years, captaining us to promotion to the Premier League in 2010. He went on to play for Stoke after a season with Liverpool, playing 156 games in Staffordshire over seven years. After spending last season with Reading, he’s now training with Ian Evatt’s Bolton Wanderers.

There are also two familiar faces in Stoke’s current squad. Tom Ince may well feature against us for the first time since his departure in 2014 – he never did get that move to Inter Milan, did he? He’s been with Stoke since 2018 and is now aged 28, while Jordan Thompson also departed us for Stoke in January and has since made 15 appearances.

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Feature image copyright: Pinterest

Published by Tom Johnson

Seaside exile living in Leeds. Been watching the Pool home and away since 2001

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