Stoke City play host to Swansea City on Tuesday evening knowing that they realistically require all three points if they want to get back into the Championship playoff mix.
The Potters only sit four points clear of their 16th-placed opponents, a scenario which only ups the stakes ahead of the contest at the bet365 Stadium.
Given the amount of changes that he made to his squad during January, no-one can accuse Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill of being afraid to show a ruthless streak at the bet365 Stadium.
With six defeats coming in 10 Championship matches, there can be no complaints either, and O’Neill will be hopeful that a number of fresh faces will reignite a playoff push.
At one stage, the Potters were well placed in the top six, but they suddenly find themselves down in 14th position with no more than two matches in hand on some of their rivals.
On the plus side, Stoke were able to progress through to the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, Josh Maja and Jacob Brown getting on the scoresheet during a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
Despite their opponents being a league below, Stoke ended Wigan’s 20-game unbeaten streak, so confidence should be taken from that achievement.
Swansea City manager Russell Martin on January 25, 2022© Reuters
Swansea should be in an equally positive frame of mind after ending their own frustrating period with a 1-0 victory over second-placed Blackburn Rovers.
The Welsh outfit had lost six of their previous nine games ahead of that fixture, but Michael Obafemi’s early goal proved to be the difference.
Although Russell Martin remains under pressure to keep his job, Swansea can move into the top half of the standings if they take advantage of their matches in hand.
However, with Swansea having not recorded back-to-back wins since November 2, Martin and his players will certainly not be getting ahead of themselves as they prepare for a potentially-pivotal match in their season.