by Lewis Ambrose

The Barclays Asia Trophy kicks off in Singapore on Wednesday, with Everton facing Stoke before Arsenal play Singapore XI later the same day.

While a pre-season tournament and a nice commercial trip to Asia, it also serves as stern competition with a final taking place on Saturday between the winners of Wednesday’s games. Arsène Wenger has already said Arsenal will take the tournament seriously and Arsenal legend Martin Keown thinks Stoke could surprise everyone.

“They are coming into the tournament on a high and I see them as the dark horse,” said Keown, who spent the majority of his career at Arsenal.

“They’ve got a nucleus of players who have been there a while now and Hughes seems to be able to bring the best out of them.

“I’m assuming that they will be slightly fitter than everybody else as I think he’ll have had them in training earlier,” the former Arsenal man told before the tournament gets underway.

Arsenal will be looking to win the trophy but don’t have the best of records against Stoke, should we face them in Saturday’s final. Most importantly we are stepping up our pre-season preparations and a test against Premier League opposition should give us a good indicator of where we are right now.

The past two editions of the competition have seen Premier League heavyweights Manchester City and Chelsea win the trophy before going on to win the Premier League and Champions League respectively the following season.

Hopefully Arsenal get off to a strong start this year.