Stoke City host West Ham at the Britannia on Saturday in what should be called the ‘most physical fixture’ in the Premier League, as arguably the two ‘strongest’ sides in the league lock horns for the second time this season. Stoke City came away with a vital point against Norwich at Carrow Road last weekend with Jon Walters hogging the limelight. The Potters were again frustrated by the Football Association’s disciplinary review system this week when the team’s appeal against the red card has been rejected. Jonathan Walters had a game of mixed fortunes with him scoring the lone goal for his team from the spot before getting himself sent off immediately after, giving Norwich a numerical advantage, which they failed to capitalise on.
Londoners West Ham United enjoyed a week of rest, since they did not play last weekend owing to their last week’s opponent, Hull City, and their involvement in the FA Cup. West Ham’s last Premier League fixture against Everton at Goodison Park ended their amazing run of 4 consecutive wins, with a disappointing 1-0 loss. The unexpected turnaround masterminded by Big Sam and skipper Kevin Nolan, who’s been influential on the pitch, saw them climb up to tenth in the league table after a torrid first half of the season. Stoke City, the team they will face this Saturday have the same points as they do, having played a game less, which suggests this should be an interesting game to watch, and an important game plus 3 points for both teams.
Stoke City has got less injury worries but two of their key players won’t feature in this game due to suspensions. Firstly, Scotland international Charlie Adam, who has been in good form of late, is already serving a ban and is out of this game after retrospective action was taken against him for his alleged stamp on Oliver Giroud in the 1-0 victory over Arsenal a fortnight ago. Next up in the suspension list is Jon Walters who will be serving a 3-game ban as a result of the sending off against Norwich City last weekend. As far as injuries are concerned, Stoke City will miss defender Robert Huth who was scheduled to return from a long-term knee injury last week, but his rehabilitation is taking longer than anticipated, so he is again expected to miss out. So, we can expect Marc Wilson to pair up with Ryan Shawcross again at the heart of Stoke’s defence. Matthew Etherington is expected to replace Jon Walters in the starting XI, who has revealed this week, that he would be leaving the club after 5 long seasons with the Potters. Assaidi, who is on loan from Liverpool, will be out for this fixture as he remains sidelined due to a knee injury.
Ricardo Vaz Te (hamstring) and Joey O’Brien (dislocated shoulder) remain sidelined, but Carlton Cole is believed to be in contention after having two weeks to recover from the knock that he suffered in the first half at Goodison Park. His niggle could give Allardyce the opportunity to recall £15m record-signing Andy Carroll, who fractured a finger against Everton, in attack, but defender Winston Reid may again have to be content with a place among the substitutes. The New Zealand international was a standout performer for the Hammers earlier in the season, but James Tomkins and James Collins kept four clean sheets in six games during his injury-enforced absence, and I reckon Big Sam would not want to disrupt the relatively more reliable partnership at the back.
Only five teams have picked up more points at home than Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League this season (24). If only home games were counted this season, Stoke would be sixth, ahead of Tottenham and Manchester United in the table.
The Hammers have conceded just one goal and kept three clean sheets in their last four Barclays Premier League away outings.
West Ham didn’t manage a single shot on target against Stoke in their meeting at the Boleyn Ground earlier in the season.
Mark Hughes’ side have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games at the Britannia Stadium (W5 D5 L1).
West Ham have only lost one of their four Premier League trips to the Britannia Stadium (W2 D1 L1).
Peter Crouch is the top scorer for the Potters with 6 goals and also tops the assists chart for the team having set up 4 goals for his teammates. It’s no surprise that Stoke City and Mark Hughes would count on his ability to leap the highest, net the winning goal off a set piece, that could get them a morale-boosting home win against similar opponents. Unsurprisingly, he tops the headers’ list, having headed the ball 17 times, which is the highest in his team. His clear-cut chance conversion rate is worrying though, he’s managed to convert just 25% of the clear-cut chances he had, which is the least among the other goalscorers at Stoke. And a whopping 22 shots off target out of 45 attempted is something he would perhaps, wish to improve upon. He has created 8 clear-cut chances for his teammates, which is the highest in the team, a statistic that needs to be appreciated.
Kevin Nolan has been nothing short of influential in West Ham’s recent improvement and has so far been a real leader, on the verge of guiding the team to guaranteed safety and a classier position in the league. He has assisted 5 goals so far and all 5 have come from open play, which is encouraging for the Hammers. But what is remarkable is the goal-scoring ability he has showcased this season, with 7 goals from midfield, which a good return to be fair. He is the top scorer for West Ham and the skipper has turned up with vital goals, especially when the team needed a leader like him, the most. He has been a vital cog in the West Ham’s engine while his box-to-box style of play should trouble Stoke City this week and his form and ability to pop up crucial goals will be key to West Ham’s chances in this game.
The last game at Boleyn Ground ended with a 1-0 scoreline in favor of Stoke City. I think this game will be pretty compact again with set plays deciding the game. I would therefore go for a 1-1 stalemate.