Hull City host Stoke City at the KC Stadium this weekend, in a match that will likely spawn ‘jokes’ of the fixture being more associated with rugby rather than football due to location and playing styles of each club.
Hull have had some contrasting results in the last month, with victories against Liverpool and Sunderland being outdone by poor defeats to Crystal Palace and Southampton.
Stoke, on the other hand, have suffered their results in patches with a 8-match streak without a win early in the season before their current run of form where there only loss in 6 games came against an impressive Everton.
The former Tottenham midfielder has played a big part in Hull’s decent defensive performances this season. With 30 successful tackles – the most for Hull – and 59 ground duels won, Huddlestone is a force in the midfield area that any newly promoted team would crave for.
The difficulty for Hull in recent months has been their attacking exploits as they’ve failed to score more than 1 goal on 13 occasions this season and Huddlestone’s goal scoring history doesn’t help with him being Hull’s highest shot taker (30). Hull will be looking for Huddlestone to also focus on his defending and creative duties – having creating 26 chances for Steve Bruce’s team this season – against Stoke this weekend.
The renaissance of the Irish playmaker after years of abject performances and time spent off the pitch, Ireland has started to reproduce the performances he showed during his exceptional spell of form at Manchester City during the 2008/09 season.
Despite scoring 2 goals, both impressive finishes against Swansea and Chelsea last week, Ireland has yet to cement a place in the starting line up – with 5 starts and 5 substitute appearances to his name. The game is made for playing an attacking midfielder, however, Hull showing their defensive ability and threat on the counter attack in recent weeks, and that should see Ireland start against Hull.
This will be the third time Hull and Stoke face each other at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League with both teams winning 2-1 in the previous 2 matches.
A difficult run of fixtures saw Hull face only 1 team in the lower half in their last 5 games, obtaining 4 points in the process.
Hull have scored just under a goal per game (0.9) and conceded just over a goal per game (1.3) compared to Stoke who have averaged 1 goal per game and have the same goals conceded average as Hull (1.3).
Hull have only been involved in a match with more than 2 goals on 4 occasions, while the Britannia Stadium has seen more than 2 goals just twice this season.
Hull only have 3 long term injuries with Dudgeon (knee), Guinn (hamstring), and Aluko (shin) all out for the foreseeable future.
Etherington (back) and Begovic (thigh) both face a late fitness test to determine whether they will make the game, while Pieters is doubtful with a groin injury. Charlie Adam (knock) and Robert Huth (knee) are set to miss out.
Two teams that will have aspirations of a comfortable mid-table finish with Hull in their first season back and Stoke going through a period of change after their managerial change in the summer. These matched goals from both clubs for the season will be evident in Saturday’s game as a score draw is the most likely outcome.