Stoke City v Fuham – Match Preview

Stoke host resurgent Fulham hoping to maintain their strong home record at the Britannia Stadium in one of the Premier League’s less than glamorous fixtures this weekend.

The Potters have been formidable on their own patch this campaign remaining unbeaten against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United taking five points from them in the process. Despite their strong home form and promising start to the season things have tailed off for Tony Pulis’ side who have failed to win in their last three games picking up a solitary point against United. That draw was sandwiched by two disappointing defeats on the road with Sunderland thrashing them 4-0 last month before Swansea beat them 2-0 a fortnight ago. It’s been a hectic campaign already for Pulis and his men with the club battling on three fronts and have contested a staggering 15 fixtures already. The Europa League has proved to be an energy sapper and the boss will be grateful a majority of his players were able to recharge their batteries during the international break. One major complaint for Pulis will be his sides shy nature in front of goal with the Potters finding the net only four times in the league – fewer than any other team. With the likes of Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones, Jon Walters and Ricardo Fuller all in the squad it’s a mystery as to why the goals have suddenly dried up.

That could be their downfall against the Cottagers who finally found their rhythm two weeks ago smashing six past a hapless QPR side. Andy Johnson struck a hat trick in that game and looks hungry again after spending the last few seasons in the treatment room. The side has benefitted from his return to full fitness with his pace and movement up front giving their attack an extra dimension. Remarkably Fulham, who are also competing in the Europa League, have played 19 games this season and will have welcomed the respite an international break brings. New boss Martin Jol has struggled to get his side motoring in the Premier League but everything fell into place at home to Rangers and he’ll be urging his side to deliver more of the same this time around. They’ll be confident of taking all three points at the Britannia Stadium though after winning their last season and doing the double over Stoke. Clint Dempsey in particular will be optimistic of finding the net having scored three times in the last four meetings between the two sides.

Key Players

Asmir Begovic – The Bosnian keeper has been in superb form since usurping Thomas Sorensen as number one. Stoke have had to call on him numerous times this season to keep them in games and his performance against Man United two weeks ago went along way to securing a point.

Andy Johnson – After a few frustrating years out injured Johnson is back and raring to go. His gradual return to fitness in 2011 has been evident and his hat trick in Fulham’s last game was indicative of his willingness to run and get into scoring positions. His pace will be key to the Cottagers unlocking Stoke’s sluggish defence.

Verdict: 1-1

  • Andrew Johnson hit a hat trick in that game and leapt 167 places in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to 33rd
  • Johnson’s hat trick goals were his first in the Premier League this season, despite having got 88% of shots on target. Zamora has had 77% of shots on target this season and with Fabio Capello looking at alternative striking options in Wayne Rooney’s absence both can stake a claim for an England place. Only Rooney and Aston Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor are ranked higher as English strikers in the Index.
  • Their struggle this season is apparent in the fact their goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is their highest ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
  • Begovic has now made 38 saves in the Barclays Premier League, the 5th highest of any goalkeeper and is the 4th ranked goalkeeper overall behind Joe Hart, David de Gea, and Tim Krul
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