Premier League pitted against each other.

The two sides have conceded just 21 goals between them in 22 matches and both Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis have put together squads that are extremely hard to break down.

Four points against Manchester City and Newcastle will give Hammers fans hope going into tonight’s game while the Potters’ record of no wins in the last 15 away games means the home side are certainly favourites.

Comparisons have been made between the tactical styles of Big Sam and Pulis with both teams favouring tight defensive qualities and long balls aimed at the heads of Messrs Carroll and Crouch, but Allardyce believes the parallels stop there.

“They are not the same”, Allardyce said.

“Mine are not the same as Tony’s. I’m an individual. Nobody copies Sam Allardyce. I don’t copy anybody else.”

The Hammers boss did however, sympathise with the criticism often levelled at Pulis’ Stoke suggesting that actually, his philosophy isn’t too far from the Welshman’s.

“Tony has suffered his fair share of criticism down the years for the way his teams play – but not from me.

“I believe the art of good defending is the catalyst to your team’s success – or otherwise,” he added.

It is thought that Allardyce will fortify his defence by returning James Collins to his starting XI, but Matthew Taylor, Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te will all miss out.

Stoke will be hoping that Glenn Whelan can shake off a hamstring injury picked up in the Republic of Ireland’s match with Greece midweek and Dean Whitehead is suspended. Jonathan Walters and Charlie Adam have a 50/50 chance of featuring.

Prediction: West Ham 1 – 0 Stoke City

You can follow all the long balls, flick ons and crunching tackles on our LIVE Blog below

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