On paper this looks set to be an archetypal mid-table slog between two of the Premier  League less than glamorous sides. In fact the form of Stoke and West Ham mirrors each other with both recording just one Premier League win in their last six games. Although the Potters sit three points and four places above their opponents the disparity between the two sides is slim. Tony Pulis’ side have failed to build on their early season promise and European qualification looks to be slipping away. Scoring goals has been the key issue for Stoke with just 26 coming in their 27 games but should revel in the comfort of their home surroundings against the Hammers having taken 24 points from a possible 39 at the Britannia Stadium.

Similarly the Hammers have struggled to find the net this season, notching one less than Stoke, and its likely Sam Allardyce will set his side up to avoid defeat having lost nine times in 13 games on the road this term. Historically though they’ve enjoyed their trips to the Potteries and have avoided defeat in six of their last seven visits. Allardyce, however, won’t read too much into that as he desperately strives to secure West Ham’s safety after defeat at home to Tottenham on Monday left them just six points above the relegation zone. That being said they looked good for much of the game against Spurs but know they face a very different proposition when they lock aerial horns with Stoke.
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Matthew Etherington and Michael Owen will have their fitness assessed before the game, while Robert Huth starts a three-match suspension. Despite breaking his nose at Fulham last week Steven Nzonzi could feature wearing a protective mask.

Captain Kevin Nolan is out with a broken toe, Mark Noble (arm) is a doubt but Guy Demel is available.

What the managers said…

“You take Manchester City, Swansea and the first half at Fulham last week out of it. And our performances away have been better this season. Even against the top teams, we’ve got draws at Liverpool and Tottenham, we went to Manchester United and gave them a game, went to Chelsea and were unlucky and went to Arsenal and got beat by a deflected goal. What we are doing is putting an infrastructure in place that a lot of Premier League clubs would like – and we are doing that and staying in the league at the same time. And all because we want a future with a good side in the Premier League.” Tony Pulis believes the critics are being unnecessarily harsh on his Stoke team (The Sentinel)

“Of course we are. We’ve always looked up the table this season and we’ve always tried to get into the top ten and with a good result on Saturday we can push ourselves a little bit closer to that. I think the away form hasn’t been as good as we’d have liked. I think our home form has been really, really good, even though we’ve lost a couple. We have to address that, we’ve got to be a little tighter and a bit more physical away from home and make sure we try and keep a clean sheet. And if we can do that, that gives us a good chance to get back to winning ways on our travels.” West Ham assistant manager Neil McDonald admits the club are concerned at their close proximity to the relegation zone (whufc.com)

Pre-Match Statistic: Despite the Britannia Stadium being renowned a fortress for most teams Stoke have struggled against West Ham winning just once on their last seven meetings in the Potteries.

Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 West Ham United

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