The beleaguered Trotters boss has seen his side muster only two wins from their ten league games this season and slump to second bottom in the Premier League table. The pressure has slowly started to increase on Coyle after his side failed to replicate the form they showed for much of last season. You could pinpoint the moment of their collapse back to the FA Cup semi-final thrashing they received from this weekends opponents with 13 defeats from the 16 games since the 5-1 defeat on 17 March. Their cause hasn’t been helped by serious injuries to key midfield duo Lee Chung Yong and Stuart Holden with summer signings Chris Eagles and Nigel Re0-Coker struggling to replace them. Goals have also been hard to come by since the departure of Johan Elmanader and Daniel Sturridge’s return to Chelsea with David N’Gog doing his best but to no avail. One of the big disappointments of the current season has been the form of Gary Cahill who has been made to look extremely ordinary on a few occasions this season. Coyle will need to get his confidence built up once again as he hasn’t looked like the domineering centre half he used to be. Defending as a whole has been below par with 27 goals being shipped and the back line looking like a bunch of Sunday League players drafted in for a game. They’ll all need to be focused if they are to win their first home game of the season.
I’d imagine Stoke are the last team the Trotters would want to face with their physical approach and aerial assaults proving effective in a day and age where style and skill is considered to be the only possible way of winning football games. Tony Pulis has built strong foundations at the Britannia Stadium since their Premier League debut in this fixture three years ago. He’ll be disappointed with his sides latest league display after they were knocked down a peg or two by Newcastle on Monday night before making the long trip to and from Tel Aviv to fulfil their Europa League commitments. Tiredness will be a major concern for Pulis going into this game and it’s expected that he will shuffle his pack to keep his squad fresh for the challenges ahead in league and cup. Their usual method of ferociously closing down and getting in their opponents faces is like likely to take a back seat this week with the onus placed on executing their set pieces to perfection. Rory Delap’s long throws remain a constant threat for teams and it’s possible that Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones could be deployed up front to get on the end of the touchline missiles. Their record at the Reebok Stadium doesn’t make easy reading though emerging victorious in only two of the last 10 games and they’ll be desperate to get back to winning ways with three points moving them back into the top half of the table.
David N’Gog – It’s been a slow start to his career at the Reebok since his move from Liverpool but there have been flashes of genuine class from the Frenchman. An honest and willing runner he will work his socks off up front for the team and in his defence he has been starved of quality service. Will face a big test against an imposing Stoke defence.
Matthew Etherington – Whilst the focus is also placed on the Potters long ball game they actually play more football than they are given credit for. Etherington is a big part of that with his speed and trickery down the left giving Stoke something different when the direct approach proves fruitless.