Stoke City host West Brom at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday hoping to put an end of a run which has seen them lose three games on the bounce, leaving them a place outside of the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference. The Baggies, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last five in all competitions and will aim to take advantage of the lack of confidence in the Stoke camp.
Team News: Stoke
Jonathan Walters is Stoke’s only casualty as he nurses a pelvic injury but apart from that Mark Hughes has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Team News: West Brom
On the other hand, West Brom have a few more injury concerns. Zoltan Gera is out for the foreseeable future and Ben Foster is not likely to be back until December. Matej Vydra, Scott Sinclair and Victor Anichebe are doubtful but could return at the weekend. Long-term absentee George Thorne is not likely to be risked.
Hosts Stoke have lost their last three league matches and have not won since a 1-0 victory at West Ham in August. On the other hand, West Brom managed to get four points in games against Manchester United and Arsenal which will have delighted Steve Clarke. It is set to be a tight season at the bottom with just four points separating eighth place from 18th already and it will be games like this that will determine whether teams like Stoke and West Brom will be in a relegation fight or not.
Goals have been the problem once again for the Potters but they have won admirers because Hughes has tinkered with their style and made them slightly less direct.
As for the Baggies, they will be hoping that their four match unbeaten run in the league continues. New signings Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano have settled into their side very well but it wasClaudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu’s partnership in central midfield that won all the praise against Arsenal. They helped their side make 18 interceptions against the flamboyant Gunners.
Players to Watch
Stoke City - Marko Arnautovic
Stoke have failed to win since Arnautovic joined the club at the end of the transfer window. He hasn’t come to life as of yet as he gets to grips with the Premier League but there is no doubt he can make a big difference this season. The Austrian will have to improve upon his meagre 27% shooting accuracy if he is to be a success at the Britannia.
West Brom - Morgan Amalfitano
The Frenchman undoubtedly produced his best display to-date in a Baggies shirt in the win at Old Trafford. Amalfitano has shown glimpses of his talent and could be a very shrewd buy from Clarke. He has already scored twice in four games and created 11 chances, including two assists.
I predict a low scoring game with Arnautovic finally getting off the mark for his new club. West Brom should breach the suspect Stoke defence but don’t expect a classic.
Stoke 1-1 West BromPublished 18 Oct 2013, 15:15 IST