Stoke City have shown they can compete with the top of the Premier League table when playing at the Britannia Stadium. Anywhere else has been a struggle.
With six of their 10 remaining fixtures coming away from home, some road mettle could be necessary for the Potters to further distance themselves from the relegation zone. Their first opportunity to continue building toward safety comes Saturday at Carrow Road, where Norwich City haven’t conceded a league goal in 2014.
To make matters worse for Stoke (7-9-12), they’ll be without one of their top scorers, Charlie Adam, who was slapped with a three-match ban for violent conduct during Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Arsenal. The club appealed, but the suspension was upheld by the English Football Association.
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"I am extremely disappointed for the effect that this is going to have on Charlie and on the football club," Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes told the club’s official website.
Adam’s six top-flight goals are tied for the team lead with Peter Crouch, but it was Jonathan Walters’ 76th-minute penalty that made three points against the Gunners possible.
"The eleven that started, the players that came on as well, all had great attitude and it was a great atmosphere that the fans created," said Walters, whose team now have home wins over league-leading Chelsea, 2012-13 champions Manchester United and current third-place Arsenal. "It’s easy to do that for the big games and what we’ve all got to do now is have that for the games against the teams around us too."
Stoke ran their home record to 6-6-2, but they haven’t won away from the Britannia in the division since Aug. 31 at West Ham United. Since then, they’re 0-3-9 and they’ve yielded four clean sheets in their last five.
The Potters, 13th on the table with 30 points, are six points clear of relegation and two ahead of the Canaries (7-7-14), who on Sunday lost their fourth straight road match in a 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa.
They too are happy to play at home, where they’ve turned things around with a 2-2-0 run since the calendar flipped. They don’t have quite the list of victims at Carrow Road that Stoke have at the Britannia, though they did beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Feb. 23 in their last home fixture.
"At home we feel we’re a match for any side, and the Stoke game is going to be no different," midfielder Jonny Howson told the club’s official website.
Howson came on as a substitute against Villa for his first appearance in 2 1/2 months due to a back injury, and he could return to the starting 11 against Stoke as the Canaries look to complete the double. Howson scored in the 34th minute on Sept. 29 to give Norwich a 1-0 victory at the Britannia.
Since Norwich returned to the Premier League in 2011, the sides have been as even as possible with two wins each and one draw for a 3-3 aggregate. But given their proximity on the table, both clubs are more concerned with their league standing than gaining in the series’ recent history.
"They’re on the back of a good result against Arsenal, but we’re very close in this league table, and a win on Saturday gives us the opportunity to above them in the league – that’s how tight it is," said Norwich manager Chris Hughton, adding that he was hopeful for the return of forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel after missing the last match with a knee injury.
Stoke forward Peter Odemwingie also said he plans to be available after missing the Arsenal match because of a calf injury. The 32-year-old has scored once in five starts since his January move from Cardiff City.