Premier League preview: West Ham v Stoke

West Ham United’s survival bid will continue on Saturday when they host Stoke City at Upton Park in a crucial Premier League encounter.

Just six days after they impressed and suggested they have enough quality in their squad to stay up after a 3-1 home win against Liverpool, West Ham entertain another side in the top half of the table.

But with just six points separating Stoke in 10th and West Ham, who are second-bottom, the sides are evenly matched and it is Avram Grant’s side who enter the match in better form.

West Ham have won four of their last six matches and Grant is hopeful of another victory in front of what is sure to be another loud Upton Park crowd.

“It is always good to play at home. You feel the supporters are behind us as they are when we play away,” Grant said.

“I know the first half of the season has not been easy but they understood the problems we face and have stayed behind us.”

“Our target is to win the next game and always this is the most important thing for us.”

An interesting sub-plot to this fixture is the form of West Ham striker Demba Ba, who was signed from Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim.

Ba has quickly become a hit with West Ham fans and has netted three goals in his past two Premier League games, looking more than comfortable at this level.

Ba had agreed terms with Stoke City earlier in the January transfer window but failed a medical due to concerns over problems with his knee.

And although Ba has gone on to impress for West Ham, Stoke chairman Peter Coates says the risk of signing him was simply too high.

“There are no qualms about the decision we made,” Coates told The Sentinel.

“We would have taken the player had he passed the medical. But we were strongly advised by our medical team that it was a risk we could not take.”

“You cannot spend large sums of money on a high-risk basis. We were disappointed, though, because we wanted to sign the player and the eventual decision was nothing to do with his ability.”

With German Thomas Hitzlsperger finally back from injury, Robbie Keane is the only regular member of West Ham’s squad sidelined due to a calf problem while Stoke City will miss former Hammer Matthew Etherington and Abdoulaye Faye through back and hamstring concerns.

The reverse fixture saw Kenwyne Jones’ second-half equaliser earn Stoke a point in a 1-1 draw at the Brittania Stadium while West Ham defeated the Potters 3-1 in extra-time in the Carling Cup in October.

Scott Parker has scored in both of the fixtures this season and after a sensational solo goal and inspirational performance against Liverpool, you would not bet against him doing the same on Saturday and tormenting Stoke yet again.

Article title: Premier League preview: West Ham v Stoke

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