Kurt Zouma, currently on loan at Stoke City from Chelsea, has been a near-permanent fixture in the starting lineups at the Britannia all season, but lately, thanks in part to injury troubles, he’s been in and out of the side. He was named only a substitute last week, with the defensive partnership of Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi currently preferred by Paul Lambert, but started against Liverpool on Saturday at right-back in place of Glen Johnson, incidentally an ex-Liverpool (and Chelsea!) man.
Despite the positional change, Zouma was impeccable. The 23-year-old has played right back, as well as defensive midfield for Chelsea before, so it wasn’t completely brand new to him, but it’s still not the big man’s ideal position. No matter, he was instrumental in keeping the tenacious Liverpool attack at bay in the eventual goalless draw. Mo Salah missed one huge chance early, but the Reds were far less effective afterwards.
With the draw, Liverpool remain six points ahead of Chelsea with two to play, one of which is against the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea also have a game-in-hand, so if Liverpool were to lose their final two games and Chelsea were to win out, we’d jump over them in the top four. Thanks, Agent Kurt Zouma!
(As pointed out in the comments, Liverpool drawing with Brighton on the final day of the season with Chelsea winning out would also do the trick for the Blues.)
Man of the Match, @stokecity's Kurt Zouma— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 28, 2018
5 times possession gained#PL pic.twitter.com/7EGU4UdS25
Stoke City have had a rather poor season overall, but Zouma has not done much wrong during it. Now he’s concentrating on finishing the season well, returning to Chelsea, and then figuring out what’s next.
“The game plan was to try and win, we knew they would press us and attack. We were solid at the back, the effort from every single player was great, we deserved the draw. The target was to grab something from here and we did.
”There are two games to go, we need to win those. It is not going to be easy but with the mentality and effort we showed today we can keep going. There is a big belief we can stay up, everyone is confident.”
-Kurt Zouma; source: Sky via BBC
Zouma’s loan has certainly served its purpose, giving him much-needed and useful game time at the Premier League level as he finished his recovery from a traumatic knee and ACL injury. Hopefully he’ll be back in Chelsea blue next season, ready to play a role in the first team.