Swansea need three points and a 10-goal swing to avoid relegation into the Championship, but it's so unlikely to happen that they may not even bother trying to beat Stoke. Instead, take the Potters to go out on a high and haul themselves off the bottom of the table by finishing above their hosts.
It’s been a monumental week for the Swans and one wonders how much they'll have left in the emotional tank after the draining effects of the build-up to their make-or-break encounter with Southampton, the anguish that followed Manolo Gabbiadini’s winning goal and, ultimately, the dejection that greeted the final whistle.
Another unlikely away draw for Huddersfield at Chelsea 24 hours later leaves Carlos Carvalhal out of options and his decision to announce his departure from the club before this game says plenty about the state of mind he’s in, and one assumes it also reflects the mindset of his players. Basically, Swansea have thrown in the towel.
This game might be meaningless for Stoke but it’s anything but for Paul Lambert, who wishes to stay in charge at the bet365 Stadium beyond the summer. And he will only be encouraged by the reaction of chairman Peter Coates, who went public this week with his opinion that his biggest mistake this season was not sacking Mark Hughes sooner.
That might have been a somewhat sour take, a knee-jerk response to Hughes landing on his feet again and keeping his new employers up. But it should only encourage Lambert to give his paymaster something to buy into. A convincing win over future Championship opposition could be portrayed as a glimpse of how the landscape might alter beyond the summer.
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In truth, Lambert has offered precious little to date and that might prevent some punters from placing any faith in the Potters, even at chunky odds of 7/2. But the counter argument is that Swansea have offered even less of late, despite returning from the March international break in a much stronger position, and that’s simply not reflected in the prices.
For all the fuss made of Carvalhal's immediate impact when picking up 17 points from his first nine matches in charge, Swansea have recorded the worst xG numbers in the division since the turn of the year and regression eventually caught up with them when it mattered most. In the end, they have slipped out of the division with barely a whimper.
So while the Swans have been dealing with a sizeable inquest over the past four days, Stoke are three days further along in their mourning process. Confirmation of their fate against Crystal Palace last weekend was a hammer blow, but they had seen this coming for a while before that. If anything, Swansea's relegation hurts more due to the false hope.
It's part and parcel of life in the lower reaches of the Premier League that you turn up the intensity for home games against fellow also-rans, so we shouldn't be surprised that the hosts have picked up maximum points in nine of the past 13 meetings between these two. But now those survival instincts have disappeared, it’s a pattern that can be broken here.
Stoke to beat Swansea at 7/2