19.04.2024

Crystal Palace match is ‘a war we have to win’ says Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri

Xherdan Shaqiri will hold talks with Stoke City about his future in the summer regardless of whether they retain their Premier League status, with the Switzerland forward determined to do everything in his power to help the club survive this season but honest enough to admit that fighting relegation is not what he signed up for when he joined from Internazionale.

Speaking in the lead-up to the critical home match against Crystal Palace on Saturday, Shaqiri sounded totally committed in the short term as he stressed the need for “11 warriors on the pitch” for a game that Stoke must win to have any chance of avoiding the drop, yet there was also no escaping his sense of disappointment at the way things have turned out at the club he joined three years ago for £12m.

“I am as frustrated as everyone, I think because I came here for different ambitions, not to play for relegation,” Shaqiri said. “But sometimes at a club something goes wrong and you have to stand up and try to do the best.

“Of course they need to do a lot of new things in the club. But the most important thing is to stay up with this club and then you can rebuild.”

Asked what he did expect when he signed for Stoke, the 26‑year‑old replied: “I didn’t expect to go to the Champions League, or to be champions, but at least to see the club going forward, that was for me the most important thing. When I came here, I wanted to do more than they are at the moment, every year getting better and better and better. It was not to be like this and it’s always difficult to say why.

“When I came here, the coach Mark Hughes called me and said ‘I want you here’, that he wanted to improve a team that would play maybe for Europe – maybe like Burnley now, they’re going for sixth or seventh place, which is surprising. But it never happened here. It’s sometimes difficult to accept but I give everything to my club, I have a long contract that I signed here, so I try to give a performance every weekend to help my team‑mates achieve something.”

Shaqiri, who is Stoke’s leading scorer this season with seven Premier League goals, has two years remaining on his current deal and it seems like a foregone conclusion that the former Bayern Munich winger will move on in the event of relegation.

“Everybody knows I’m a player who wants to play at the highest level, that’s pretty normal,” Shaqiri said. “But I hope we are going to end this well, that we stay up, then we will sit down with the club.”

Shaqiri’s aspirations when he arrived were fuelled by the idea that Hughes was trying to take Stoke in a much more exciting direction and, in fairness, there were moments when that plan had real substance. The 2-0 victory against Manchester City in December 2015 springs to mind, when Shaqiri starred alongside Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic in a thrilling attacking trident that wreaked havoc against Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Yet the fun only lasted so long and there were signs that Stoke were losing their way long before the start of this season.

Promotion and relegation: how they stand

Premier League

Champions: Manchester City

Europe: Manchester United will finish in the top four, with Liverpool and Tottenham favourites to join them. Chelsea are five points behind Spurs in fifth. Arsenal will return to the Europa League, while Burnley look certain to finish seventh and return to Europe after 51 years away.

Relegation: West Brom
 are now five points from safety with two games to play. Stoke are just two points above the Baggies, while Southampton are now a point behind Swansea, who they play in their penultimate match. West Ham and Huddersfield are still looking over their shoulders.

Championship

Champions: Wolves

Automatic promotion: Cardiff need a home win over Reading to seal promotion, with Fulham hoping to pounce on any slip-up against Birmingham on the final day.

Play-offs: Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, with Derby leading the race to join them. Preston can still force their way into the top six while Millwall have only a mathematical chance

Relegation: Sunderland will finish bottom with BurtonBolton and Barnsley separated by a point. Barnsley can secure survival with a win at Derby on the final day, while Burton go to Preston and Bolton host Nottingham Forest.

League One

Automatic promotion: Wigan and Blackburn have sealed promotion and will fight for the title on the final day. A point at Doncaster will realistically be enough for Wigan.

Play-offs: ShrewsburyRotherham and Scunthorpe, with Charlton needing a point to secure the final place ahead of Plymouth.

Relegation: Bury and MK Dons are down while Northampton are all but mathematically relegated. Oldham and Rochdale are fighting to avoid the final spot; they face Northampton and Charlton respectively.

League Two

Champions: Accrington Stanley 

Automatic promotion: Luton Town, Wycombe (pictured)

Play-offs: Exeter City, Notts County and two from Coventry, Lincoln and Mansfield, who need to beat Crawley on the last day to have any chance.

Relegation: Barnet‘s win at Morecambe took the race for survival to the final day. If the Bees beat already-relegated Chesterfield, they can leapfrog Morecambe if the Shrimps lose at Coventry.

National League: Macclesfield Town have secured the only automatic promotion spot, with one from Tranmere, Sutton, Boreham Wood, Aldershot, Ebbsfleet and AFC Fylde to come up via the play-offs.

Premiership: Celtic sealed their seventh straight title by beating Rangers, who are fighting for European places with Aberdeen and Hibernian. Relegation looks to be between Partick and Ross County.

Championship: St Mirren are champions, with Livingston, Dundee United and Dunfermline set for the play-offs with the 11th-placed Premiership team. Brechin are relegated.

League One: Ayr United are champions with Raith, Alloa and Arbroath joining Dumbarton in the play-offs. Albion are relegated.

League Two: Montrose are champions with Peterhead, Stirling and Stenhousemuir joining Queen’s Park in the play-offs. Cowdenbeath will face a relegation play-off with Cove Rangers.

With so much at stake still, Shaqiri is reluctant to wade into the reasons for the club’s decline but poor recruitment is clearly at the heart of the matter, in particular up front, where the absence of a regular goalscorer has been a huge problem. “Everybody knows at the club what was wrong, so they’re going to look at everything at the end of the season,” Shaqiri said. “There’s no time here to do that now, to go through each point.

“People know the biggest thing that happened in this club. There have been a lot of transfers that they thought were going to help us – and they were good transfers – but something went wrong.”

The damage is not yet terminal as far as Stoke’s survival prospects are concerned but, realistically, they will need to beat Palace and then win at Swansea on the final day to have any chance of avoiding relegation. Shaqiri is up for the challenge.

“I’m going to try everything and give my best,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go to war. Crystal Palace is going to be like this – it’s a war we have to win for sure. We need 11 warriors on the pitch who are going to beat their opponent.”

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