Stoke City v West Bromwich Albion – Match Preview

Out of form West Brom head to the Potteries on Saturday hoping to end a four match winless run against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters won’t be easy to beat though just as Liverpool found out last week in their goalless draw at Anfield. A typically gritty defensive performance saw Tony Pulis’ men leave Merseyside with a well deserved point and they’ll welcome a return to home comforts after two games on the road as they continue to chase a Europa League place. Three draws from their last five have stumped that progress since the turn of the year but Albions visit on Saturday presents an opportunity to get that back on track. 10 games at home has yielded four wins and just two defeats with Newcastle and QPR the only teams to leave the Britannia with maximum points. Pulis will be confident his players can win at home for the first time in 2012 against their goal shy opponents especially if they defend like they did the previous week. Robert Huth and captain Ryan Shawcross were the stars for Stoke last week but will have to face up against an attack packed with plenty of pace. Limiting West Brom to long balls will be the job of midfield pair Wilson Palacios and Glenn Whelan who’s tenacious play in the middle will provide the key to victory.

Three consecutive defeats in the New Year has left the Baggies just five points above the relegation zone and edging towards a battle for survival. Roy Hodgson’s men looked to have turned a corner following consecutive away victories before Christmas but performances since then have been nothing short of woeful. Last week’s late defeat at home to Norwich highlighted their fragility when caught on the break. A dynamic counter attack from the Canaries saw Steve Morison head the winning goal and leave Albion dumbstruck after they came from behind and looked to be on course for a well-earned point. Winning at home has been the problem for West Brom this season and they’ll be thankful to get back on the road where they’ve picked up four wins and two draw from 10 games. Getting Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie into the game will be Hodgson’s biggest concern ahead of their trip to the Potteries. Utilising their pace in behind Stoke’s defence will be a tough task and with captain Chris Brunt absent with injury James Morison will be tasked with providing the killer passes.

Stoke City 8th : 30 points

Last six: D W D D L W

Team news: Stoke have no new injury concerns with Ryan Shotton the only long-term absentee

Key Player: Wilson Palacios

After a relatively slow start to his Stoke career Palacios has become an important player for Tony Pulis in midweek. The bulldozing Honduran will play a key role on Saturday with restricting West Brom in midfield as they try to exploit the Potters’ lack of pace at the back.

West Bromwich Albion 15th : 22 points

Last six: L L L D W W

Team news: Billy Jones and Jonas Olsson are both doubts but Steven Reid could return for the first time since late December. Captain Chris Brunt is out until April.

Key Player: Shane Long

A few niggling injuries over Christmas limited Long’s involvement in the last few weeks but he proved his worth to West Brom last week. The Irishman leapt off the bench to score the equaliser for Albion and will be pushing for a start this time round.

PREDICTION

Stoke’s defensive performance against Liverpool was remarkable but they’ll be hoping for a more attacking imputes this time. Their strong home record comes up against West Brom’s impressive form on the road. However three straight defeats has left the Baggies bereft of confidence and they’ll struggle in the Potteries.

Score: 3-1