Stoke City v Crystal Palace preview: Eagles fixture is must-win, says Paul Lambert
Watch live on Sky Sports Premier League or Main Event from 11.30am on Saturday
Last Updated: 06/05/18 7:35am
Stoke City manager Paul Lambert has no doubt that Saturday's home clash with Crystal Palace, live on Sky Sports from 11.30am, is a "must-win" fixture for the Staffordshire club.
Second-bottom Stoke are three points adrift of safety with a goal difference significantly inferior to that of 17th-placed Swansea City, and have only two games left to play while their rivals above them in the table have three.
They will be relegated if they lose the lunchtime kick-off against Palace, and if they draw, could be confirmed as down later on Saturday following other results.
Stoke have drawn their last three matches, including 0-0 at Liverpool last time out, to make it 12 games without a win - a sequence in which they have scored only seven goals.
Lambert said: "I think it's clear for everybody - we have to win. It is a must-win game.
"We've been playing well. We haven't taken care of the last pass in the last third, or there's been a bit of luck against us. A lot of things have gone against us. But we've been playing well. The fight is there.
"We know we are playing well. I have got no doubt we can win [the last two games], we just need to be clinical at the top end when we do have a chance.
"That's the thing that has probably hurt us the most - not being clinical enough to put games to bed."
Palace boss Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, has spoken of his pride at the likelihood of keeping the club in the Premier League, but does not yet know where the achievement ranks in his career.
Only a highly unlikely set of results can draw Palace back into relegation danger with two games remaining and, actually, a top-half finish looks a more realistic end to the campaign.
That would mark a brilliant job done by Hodgson at Selhurst Park following Frank de Boer's sacking, considering they were pointless and without a goal after four games when he arrived.
Even after 11 games, the Eagles' points tally was at four, so for them to be as good as safe pleases Hodgson.
"I am actually quite proud of what the players have achieved for this club, the way they have accepted all the things that have been thrown at us, the injuries, the misfortune in one or two games when we have played so well," the 70-year-old said.
"I am really proud of those achievements. I will look back on it and be proud of the work me and my coaching staff have done too.
"But when you start ranking achievements it becomes difficult. I will tell you when I have been retired for two or three years and I don't know when that will be.
"When I do retire, I will look back on quite a few of my achievements and be proud of them and some of them might even surprise people.
"Sometimes you can do some of your best work when you don't have the glittering prize to show for it."
Stoke defender Bruno Martins Indi will miss the game after coming off during the draw at Liverpool last weekend with a groin problem.
Glen Johnson (groin) could be back involved having sat out the Anfield game, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) and Kostas Stafylidis (rib) both remain unavailable.
The Potters have given Jese Rodriguez unpaid compassionate leave until the end of the season, effectively ending his loan from Paris St Germain.
Hodgson will pick from an unchanged squad against Stoke. Connor Wickham missed training on Thursday with a calf injury, but he was not expected to be involved anyway after a lengthy layoff.
Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon and Bakary Sako remain long-term absentees, though Puncheon has returned to training,
Stoke have won just two of their nine Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace - both at home in their first such meeting (2-1 in August 2013) and most recent at the Bet365 Stadium (1-0 in February 2017).
Palace have won six of their nine Premier League meetings with the Potters (D1 L2) - against no side have they won more in the competition.
The Eagles have kept a clean sheet in each of their last two Premier League games, last keeping three in a row back in March 2017.
No side have scored more Premier League goals in the 90th minute or later than Palace this season (six).
Lambert has won just one of his four Premier League meetings with Palace (D1 L2), with his sides failing to score in the other three games. Christian Benteke scored the winner in his only victory against them, for Aston Villa in December 2014.
Despite leading the way at Stoke for goal involvements this season (seven goals, six assists), Xherdan Shaqiri has neither scored or assisted in any of his last eight Premier League games, despite playing the full 90 minutes in all but one of them.
In contrast, after a run that saw him score none and provide just one assist in nine games, Wilfried Zaha has been directly involved in five goals in his last four Premier League appearances (four goals, one assist).
Christian Benteke ended a nine-game goal drought last time out with a penalty against Leicester - the Belgian hasn't scored in consecutive Premier League games in over a year (April 2017).
Stoke have been struggling with goals, but I think they have been playing well enough to still hold some hope going into this weekend.
Palace's job is done and, while they're dangerous, I think sheer determination will see Stoke win and scare the living daylights out of those above them.
Charlie predicts: 2-1 (9/1 with Sky Bet)