Premier League Fan V Fan Preview: West Ham v Stoke City


West Ham perspective: Graeme Howlett, KUMB.  

Team News: 

West Ham United are still suffering from something of an injury crisis with a string of players likely to be unavailable for tonight's clash. Long-term absentees Jack Collison (knee), Ricardo Vaz Te (dislocated shoulder) and the elusive Alou Diarra (anyone's guess) are definitely out whilst Yossi Benayoun (knee), Matt Jarvis (hip) and Matt Taylor (calf)  are also currently sidelined.

Form: 

It was suggested that West Ham's impressive early season form would be put in perspective by an horrendous run of fixtures starting a fortnight ago - since when we've picked up four points from games with Manchester City (h) and Newcastle Utd (a). Those results have left the Irons seventh in the Premier League, whilst a win tonight would see them rise to fifth. Much of this is down to the team's impressive defensive record; currently only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals in the league this season and so take a look at the away team not to score market at 2.45.

Head-to-head: 

West Ham just have the edge on Stoke historically with 33 wins to the Potters' 30 (plus 19 draws) whilst it's been very much a mixed bag since City returned to the top flight in 2008, with West Ham winning four to Stoke's three (plus one draw). City's two victories at the Boleyn Ground in the last 40 years have come courtesy of 1-0 wins and it's likely that they'll be looking for something similar tonight - whilst the Irons will be looking to take advantage of Stoke's dreadful recent away form. Just as West Ham are always able to upset the applecart and produce a result from the toughest of fixtures so they are equally likely to fall short in what, on paper, look to be slightly less taxing encounters. With that in mind a low scoring draw could be on the cards although I'll briefly don my claret and blue specs and predict a narrow home win.

Best Bets: 

West Ham have conceded just five goals at the Boleyn Ground during the current campaign whilst goal-shy Stoke have averaged less than a goal-a-game - so beware of backing high-scoring results. This one should be tight so look for a low-scoring draw or one-goal win to the Hammers. Kevin Nolan is always a good shout for first goalscorer (at 7.00) although don't be afraid to look at the great value on central defenders Winston Reid (28.00) or James Tomkins as (22.00) as they're always a threat from set-pieces.

Score Prediction: West Ham 1-0 Stoke at 7.00.

Likely starting XI: (4-4-2)


Stoke City perspective: Matt Meir, Potters-Online.co.uk.

Team News:

We appear to be heading into a bit of an injury crisis; Glenn Whelan limped off for Ireland mid-week with a hamstring strain, ever-present and out of form striker Jonathan Walters left the Irish training camp early, Rory Delap is recovering from a hernia, Michael Owen has a hamstring strain and Wilson of course suffered a broken leg a couple of weeks ago.

All eyes then will be on Pulis' team selection for this encounter, as he will have no choice but to shuffle the pack. Along with those listed above, Dean Whitehead misses out through suspension and Jermaine Pennant is out on loan to Wolves.

Form:

The Potters head to West Ham looking for back-to-back wins following last weekend's unconvincing 1-0 victory over QPR at the Britannia. The current form charts make for unpleasant reading for Stoke fans - back-to-back league wins have avoided Pulis' team since March 2012, only three victories have been recorded since then and, despite some "big signings" over the past few months, the goal scoring average is below 1 per game this season, so under 1.5 goals at 3.05 could be worth a shout.

So far there have been few positives for Stoke fans to look to this season; the odd fleeting glance at an attacking team with flair players is usually quickly overshadowed by a stern telling off and a return to Pulis' defensive formation. Ryan Shawcross has - finally - made his England debut, the first Stoke player to do so for donkey's years. Charlie Adam has finally scored, and most of the "big boys" have been played once already so far... Not a complete write off then. 

Head-to-head:

Pulis will of course know of West Ham's dangers, none more so than their strength at home following promotion. This, along with the unavailable list, may be the catalyst in prompting a shift in tactical focus for the manager - and possibly give us the kickstart we so desperately need right now. That said, a point would be gladly received. 

Score Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Stoke City at 9.25.

Likely starting XI: (4-4-2):