Top Sky Sports pundit David Prutton has suggested in his weekly predictions that Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland could be key to how the Potters deal with the threat of Marcelo Bielsa’s high-flying Leeds United.
The 9-cap England international has endured a horrific start to the 2019/20 Championship campaign, with a blunder-strewn performance against Preston North End on Wednesday leading to Stoke boss Nathan Jones conceding he may have to bench the unsettled shot-stopper for our trip to the bet365 Stadium.
Butland was at fault for the Lilywhites’ opening two goals of the midweek encounter, with the 26-year-old failing to deal with low shots from range that arguably should have been saved with relative ease for someone of his calibre.
“No one talks about him as being a Stoke goalkeeper,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live after the Preston defeat. “Everyone talks about him losing his place in the England side or that he’s got to go abroad or leave Stoke to gain this or that.
“But he’s got to do his job for Stoke first. I don’t know where he must be mentally because there’s so much talk about him, but realistically we all have to do our job for Stoke.
“You don’t go from being a top goalkeeper to making errors like he is at the minute. There must be something playing on his mind.”
Prutton now sees Stoke as being in real trouble ahead of our trip to the bet365 Stadium, and has highlighted Butland’s struggles as a reason why.
“Stoke are in trouble,” he noted. “Bottom of the league already, and Nathan Jones is under real pressure. Jack Butland should be the best goalkeeper in the Championship, but he has really struggled so far.
“Leeds, meanwhile, seem to have picked up a bit of a gem in Eddie Nketiah. If he can keep making the kind of impact he did against Brentford on Wednesday night, then they will have a real shot at automatic promotion. They should have too much for Stoke”.
While Prutton mentioned the threat of Nketiah in his prediction of a 2-0 win on the road for the Whites, Patrick Bamford needs to be the one listening to his assessment of Butland, and realise he must improve one key stat of his.
In Bamford’s four Championship appearances so far this season, the 25-year-old has scored three goals from six shots on target, which is a respectable hit rate. However, he has thrashed eight of his total 16 attempts wide of the mark, with the remaining two blocked.
He has also only attempted one shot from outside of the box, and attempting more from range – and getting them on target – could see United’s number nine add his fourth goal of the campaign, and keep Nketiah waiting for his first second-tier start if Bielsa maintains the same line-up against Stoke.