Erik Pieters

VIDEO: Hughes hails Stoke’s character, defensive play in win over Chelsea

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Once known as a tough, physical team that is hard to break down, Stoke City has seen a recent transformation that focuses on playing more attacking, attractive football.

Today, they were a little bit of both.

Chelsea put in a good performance at the Britannia, but Stoke City stood strong and held on for a 1-0 win, moving the Potters up to 12th on the table.

[ MORE: Three things we learned ]

The goal was a bit of the new Stoke, switching the field and quickly moving the ball up the pitch, capped off by a brilliant individual effort from Marko Arnautovic.

Then there was a bit of the old Stoke, as captain and center-back Ryan Shawcross relentlessly battled with Diego Costa while Erik Pieters played through what certainly looked to be a broken nose.

After the match, manager Mark Hughes praised Stoke’s character in the win, hailing the team effort to get a big result.

I thought we displayed great character today and all the qualities that you need to compete against one of the best teams in the Premier League, if not in Europe.

Irrespective of their troubles at the moment in terms of getting results on the board, Chelsea are a fantastic team with great individual talent and world-class players.

Hughes appreciated the toughness of Pieters to play through his injury, and called for Shawcross to get a look for the England national team. The Potters’ captain missed the beginning of the season while recovering from back surgery, but has played 90 minutes in each of Stoke’s past two matches, in which the team has not conceded a goal.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City

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  • Stoke swept Spurs last season
  • Tottenham leads all-time 43W-20D-25L
  • Spurs 7W-2D-5L since Stoke’s PL return

Stoke City and Spurs both fell victim in tight contests against tough opening day foes, and it barely gets any easier when the two square off at White Hart Lane on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

USMNT veteran Geoff Cameron’s Potters will be looking to keep up their mastery of Spurs after last year’s sweep by a combined score of 5-1. Both matches did see a Tottenham player earn a red card, with Kyle Naughton sent off while Spurs trailed 2-1 in the first match, while Vlad Chiriches’ sending-off in the second match came in the 55th minute with Spurs already down 2-0. Ugly stuff.

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Tottenham fell 1-0 to Manchester United on opening weekend in a listless affair that could’ve gone either way, or just as easily ending 0-0. Kyle Walker’s own goal was the only thing that broke the stalemate, while the Potters and Reds also could’ve ended 0-0 had Philippe Coutinho not scored a wonder goal to send Liverpool past Stoke.

Spurs will be competing this week and into the future without Roberto Soldado, who’s been sold to Villarreal and will return to La Liga.

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What they’re saying

Spurs’ boss Mauricio Pochettino is happy to be home: “They’ve got a lot of quality in the team, so we have to be aware of the danger they bring. But at home we want to win every game and that’s the mentality we’ll have for Saturday.”

Stoke defender Erik Pieters on facing Spurs: “We have to dare to play in the big games, and with the players we have here now we can play good attacking football and put other teams under pressure, whether we are at home or away. We had a good result against Tottenham last season at White Hart Lane and we want to do the same again. We believe that we can go there and win the game. That is what we will be looking to do.”

Prediction

Given their respective slates always looked tough, one of these teams could be looking at a zero-point total in the Premier League basement despite such high expectations to open the season. Home field does feel like the tipping point here, though Spurs’ relative consistency with their squad might also be what brings Tottenham past its still-gelling opponents. Give us Spurs by a 2-0 margin, but also some leeway: Stoke is good.

Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool: Coutinho stunner saves Liverpool late

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  • Liverpool featured five debutants
  • First 45 minutes progressed with little action
  • Philippe Coutinho golazo wins it with four minutes left

Liverpool went into the Britannia charged for revenge after last season ended with an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at that very ground. Just as it looked they’d come out confused, befuddled, and devoid of ideas, Philippe Coutinho unleashed a stunner to give the Reds all three points.

Stoke City held well along the back and had the best pair of chances as the two sides appeared to be snoozing their way to a 0-0 draw when Coutinho’s beauty struck the back of the net with four minutes to go.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

The first chance fell to Charlie Adam in the Liverpool box inside 8 minutes, but he whiffed on the shot as the ball fell to him in the middle of the box. From there, the game snoozed through much of the first half-hour, with either team shifting tactics to counter the other. On 35 minutes, Stoke had another opportunity but Ibrahim Afellay’s first effort was blocked and Glen Johnson’s follow-up shot looped over the bar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Halftime came without much else to show for the first 45 minutes. Erik Pieters had to come off after the break due to injury, replaced by Philipp Wollscheid. Liverpool eventually made a substitution as well, although it wasn’t the one many expected. With the game continuing to drag, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers brought on defensive midfielder Emre Can instead of new signing Roberto Firmino.

Past the half-hour mark, Liverpool found its first shot on target from a set-piece, a free-kick flung over the box at the feet of Martin Skrtel who found his central defensive partner Dejan Lovren, but his low shot from a tight angle was held easily by Jack Butland. Eventually, Rodgers would eventually bring on Firmino, but to little effect.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]

Stoke had a chance as Charlie Adam found Mame Diouf with a free-kick but the latter whiffed on the far post tap-in. Liverpool picked things up past 65 minutes as a Christian Benteke shot was blocked and the pace seemed to brighten slightly, and the ensuing corner saw Butland make a diving save to keep out a solid Benteke header.

Diouf again found himself the target of a ball forward into the box, but his header just glanced wide of the post with seven minutes remaining. The game looked to be snoozing to a finish, and Rodgers was about to substitute off Coutinho when the Brazilian shook off the cobwebs, burst forward through the midfield and unleashed a sparkling ray of brilliance that lifted the visitors to delight.

Premier League by the numbers: Looking at the season’s statistical leaders

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A quick look at some of the leader boards at the end of the 2013-14 Premier League season:

Goals scored, team

  • 102 – Manchester City
  • 101 – Liverpool
  • 71 – Chelsea

Two of the top scoring teams in Premier League history not only challenged the record of Carlo Ancellotti’s 2009-10 Chelsea team (103), they lapped the rest of the league. You’d have to take away all of Luis Suarez’s goals to reduce Liverpool to Chelsea’s level.

Goals scored, individual

  • 31 – Luis Suarez
  • 21 – Daniel Sturridge
  • 20 – Yaya Toure

Together, Suarez and Sturridge outscored 11 Premier League teams, but Yaya Toure’s contribution may have been as impressive. The Ivorian midfielder tallied more goals than Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres, and Demba Ba combined (19).

Goals from English players

  • 48 – Liverpool
  • 38 – Southampton
  • 34 – Manchester United

Not that it matters.

Assists, individual

  • 13 – Steven Gerrard
  • 12 – Luis Suarez
  • 9 – two players

Two assists on the final day helped Gerrard claim this honor from Suarez, but the Uruguayan’s standing is a reminder of his year’s dominance.

Shots on target, individual

  • 81 – Luis Suarez
  • 45 – Romelu Lukaku
  • 43 – Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney

You knew Suarez would be on top, and as you’d suspect with a large gap on top of the goal scoring charts, the margin here is large, too. Daniel Sturridge had 42.

Passes completed, team

  • 18,532 – Arsenal
  • 17,993 – Swansea City
  • 17.863 – Manchester City

Or about 488 per game, for Arsenal.

Passes completed, player

  • 2,255 – Yaya Toure
  • 1982 – Mikel Arteta
  • 1,908 – Steve Gerrard

Like Suarez with shots, what’s remarkable here is the gap. Toure averaged 69 completed passes per 90 minute(though Arteta averaged 74).

Headed goals, team

  • 14 – Liverpool
  • 12 – Arsenal
  • 10 – five teams

One out of every 5.7 Arsenal goals came off somebody’s head, with Olivier Giroud’s four second only to Wilfried Bony (five) for the league’s lead.

Hit the woodwork, individual

  • 9 – Luis Suarez
  • 5 – three players

Hitting the woodwork isn’t bad luck, as is often implied, but it’s worth noting how close Luis Suarez was to an even more staggering goal total.

Penalty goals, individual

  • 10 – Steven Gerrard
  • 6 – Yaya Toure
  • 4 – three players

“Stevie G” scored 13 total goals this season, but imagine if Suarez took the spot kicks instead. He would have approached 40 goals while Gerrard’s place in our teams of the season may have gotten a second thought.

Tackles, indiviual

  • 133 – Mile Jedinak
  • 121 – Steve Sidwell
  • 120 – Pabl0 Zabaleta

You expect central midfielders to be on this list, but Pablo Zabaleta is a right back. Farther down the list, Erik Pieters, Joel Ward, and Geoff Cameron also claim spots in the top 10.

Saves, individual

  • 149 – David Marshall
  • 130 – Vito Mannone
  • 124 – John Ruddy

Vito Mannone is sandwiched between two relegated keepers despite playing only 29 games.

Fouls won, team

  • 454 – Sunderland
  • 450 – Chelsea
  • 448 – Manchester United

The Black Cats were fouled 44 more times than Liverpool, though Fabio Borini, the teams leader in fouls won, was only 10th in the league. Why were opponents so willing to draw whistles against Sunderland?

Fouls won, individual

  • 89 – Eden Hazard
  • 79 – Robert Snodgrass
  • 76 – Adam Lallana

Surprisingly, Luis Suarez is only fourth, 22 fouls behind Hazard. Then again: forward versus attacking midfield.

Fouls conceded, team

  • 491 – Aston Villa
  • 486 – Stoke City
  • 448 – Sunderland

For Stoke, this may be the legacy of Tony Pulis, with Mark Hughes having inherited the former manager’s combative squad. For Aston Villa, Paul Lambert’s team spent most of its season without the ball (18th in possession, 43.8 pct.).

Fouls conceded, individual

  • 66 -Cheick Tiote
  • 62 – Steve Sidwell
  • 60 – Mile Jedinak

Whereas Jedinak and Sidwell were also among the league’s most prolific tacklers, Tiote finished 10th on that list (107).

Times subbed off, individual

  • 19 – Leon Osman
  • 19 – Adam Lallana
  • 19 – Marouane Chamakh

It’s surprising to see Lallana’s name here, but it also makes sense that three teams with consistent (game-to-game) plans had regular substitution patterns.

Offsides, individual

  • 33 – Luis Suarez
  • 32 – Loic Remy
  • 30 – Christian Benteke

And Benteke only played 26 games. For Suarez, this is likely a function of his team’s prolific attack.

Yellow cards, team

  • 78 – Aston Villa
  • 72 – Stoke City
  • 72 – Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s team wasn’t even in the top 10 in fouls. When the Citizens went in, they made it count.

Yellow cards, individual

  • 11 – Pablo Zabaleta
  • 10 – three players

Lee Cattermole is jealous. The Sunderland’s human IED didn’t even make the top 10.

Red cards, team

  • 7 – Sunderland
  • 6 – Newcastle United
  • 5 – two teams

Black Cats defender Wes Brown led the league with three dismissals. Only five other players drew multiple red cards.

Clean sheets, individual

  • 16 – Wojciech Szczesney
  • 16 – Petr Cech
  • 15 – Tim Howard

Chelsea also led the league as a team with 18 shutouts.

Players used

  • 39 – Fulham
  • 32 – Cardiff City
  • 31 – Sunderland
  • 31 – Crystal Palace

All four changed managers (at least once) mid-season.

All stats courtesy of Opta.

Watch Live: Stoke City vs. Fulham (Lineups and Discuss)

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Fulham may no longer be sitting dead last in the Premier League, but they still absolutely must win against Stoke City today (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The match at the Britannia is vital to the Cottagers’ safety: If Fulham lose and both Norwich City and Sunderland win, the end of the weekend will see Fulham relegated. Considering Stoke are already safe, will they be nice enough to throw the visitors a bone?

Probably not. The Potters, currently tenth, are hoping for their highest finish in the league, as well as their highest points total. Mark Hughes has his pride, and he wants the numbers to reinforce the work he’s done growing the side – and moving him away from the dour Pulis-ball previously plaguing the squad.

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Stoke fell 1-0 to Tottenham last week, unable to overcome a goal from Danny Rose after Ryan Shawcross was sent off with a second yellow. Obviously Shawcross is out this week, replaced by Erik Pieters. Hughes also makes another change, dropping Peter Crouch to the bench in favor of using Stephen Ireland and Peter Odemwingie up top, and putting Oussama Assaidi into the midfield.

For Fulham, it’s another shuffle for Felix Magath. After playing a 3-5-1-1 last week, he looks to be using a 4-5-1 this week, with Darren Bent getting a (surprising) start up top as the loan striker. Costly forward Kostas Mitroglou remains on the bench, as does Ashkan Dejagah, who scored Fulham’s opener last week.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Nzonzi, Whelan, Assaidi; Ireland, Odemwingie

Subs: Sorensen; Palacios, Adam, Walters, Crouch, Etherington, Wilkinson

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Burn, Riise; Holtby, Parker, Sidwell, Diarra, Richardson; Bent

Subs: Joronen, Kasami, Mitroglou, Dejagah, Woodrow, Riether, Amorebieta