Stoke City-Swansea City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Jonathan Walters went from goat to hero in three days.
Carrying that recent success back to the Premier League could move Stoke City up the table.
Walters will try to build on his FA Cup brace Saturday, when the Potters go for a third win in a row over Swansea City, the club immediately ahead of them in the standings.
Walters leads Stoke (6-11-5) with eight goals in all competitions, including five in the Premier League.
The Irishman found himself in bizarre goal-scoring situations in last Saturday's 4-0 loss to Chelsea. He scored a pair of own goals, a feat not accomplished in the league since Sunderland's Mike Proctor in February 2003.
Walters also missed a penalty in the final minute against Chelsea, but he bounced back in impressive fashion by scoring twice in extra time of to send Stoke to a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Wednesday. He had two goals over the previous nine matches, getting both in a 3-1 win over Liverpool on Boxing Day.
"I had planned to give Jon a rest (Wednesday), but after what happened to him on Saturday, I thought the best thing was to get him out there again," manager Tony Pulis told the team's official website. "Jon is a very gifted individual in lots of respects and one of his biggest assets is that he has a big heart - the British bulldog spirit."
Walters' spirit should have him back in the lineup as he attempts to score for the first time in eight career meetings with Swansea (7-9-6).
Doing so could be a boost to Stoke, who are 10th in the Premier League, while winning once in seven matches (1-4-2) and being shut out four times.
Despite that stretch, they're one point back of the ninth-place Swans and two behind Liverpool in eighth.
Stoke has won the last two meetings with Swansea by identical 2-0 scores, including the most recent matchup on a brace from Peter Crouch on Sept. 29. However, both of those meetings came at home, and the Potters fell 2-0 on Oct. 2, 2011, in their only visit to Liberty Stadium last season.
Pulis is wary of overlooking the Swans since Stoke's Cup run continues next weekend with a visit from Manchester City in a rematch of the 2011 final.
"We've got a really tough trip to Swansea at the weekend and we have to concentrate on that game first," he said.
Swansea have their own high-profile cup match looming, as they host Chelsea in the second leg of the League Cup semifinals. They took the first leg 2-0 on Jan. 9, but have struggled offensively since.
The Swans played to a scoreless draw with Everton last weekend before falling 1-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Thursday, mustering merely one shot on target.
"We have played some big sides recently, but most importantly we have always been competitive," manager Michael Laudrup told the team's official website. "Even though we lost, it is good for me to see everyone do well."
One player who continues to please Laudrup is Michu, tied for third in the league with 13 goals. The forward, however, managers only one shot on goal in the last meeting with Stoke.