Stoke City host West Ham United at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday with both managers desperate to pick up a victory to help put a positive spin on what has been a disappointing campaign for both clubs.
Mark Hughes may have led The Potters to three consecutive top-half finishes since replacing Tony Pulis in the summer of 2013 but he has come under increasing scrutiny and pressure from the club’s supporters with the team struggling to find any consistency or form. S
toke have won just one of their previous six fixtures, a 3-1 victory against Hull City on home soil, and have failed to score in any of their last six away contests.
This will most likely result in the team finishing in the bottom-half of the Premier League and will leave Hughes with plenty of work to do in the summer to convince the club’s fan base that his side are not regressing.
Meanwhile Slaven Bilic’s team have failed to replicate the form that saw them finish in seventh place last season.
The Hammers have been hamstrung by injuries, poor form and issues surrounding their move to the Olympic Stadium whilst Dimitri Payet, their leading figure over the previous twelve months, forced through a transfer to France in controversial circumstances.
Bilic has eased the pressure in recent weeks with a three-game unbeaten run but the Croatian will have a significant task on his hands to revamp his playing squad in the summer.
Stoke City have failed to find any consistency or form over the last couple of months and a poor run of results has seen them slip out of the top-half of the table.
The Potters have picked up just four points since mid-March and have won just one of their last seven fixtures, a 3-1 victory against Hull City a fortnight ago, whilst on the road they have gone six consecutive games without scoring.
However, Mark Hughes’ side have been relatively solid on home soil and have been beaten only twice at the Bet365 Stadium since the turn of the year, suffering defeats at the hands of Chelsea and Liverpool.
West Ham United have been consistently inconsistent all season and have failed to put together a successful unbeaten run of any real significance so far this campaign.
The Hammers have picked up just four wins in their last eighteen fixtures across all competitions but are unbeaten in their previous three contests having earned five points in total against Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton.
On the road Slaven Bilic’s side have gone five games without victory which makes the prospect of travelling to the Bet365 Stadium an unappealing prospect in the grand scheme of things.
Mark Hughes switched to a 4-4-2 formation to no avail last weekend when Stoke City were undone by Swansea City and the Welshman will have a key decision to make regarding what system he deploys on Saturday.
Central to that choice could be the selection of Saido Berahino, who has yet to score in eleven appearances since joining from West Bromwich Albion in January, and the 23-year-old could be dropped to the bench to allow Peter Crouch to play as a lone striker or may be replaced by Mame Biram Diouf.
Jack Butland made his long-awaited return from injury in South Wales and is expected to retain his place in the starting eleven whilst Marc Muniesa will be recalled if Hughes decides to switch to a back three.
Jonathan Walters will miss Saturday’s contest with a knee injury whilst long-term absentees Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are Stoke’s only other injury concerns.
Slaven Bilic has an extensive injury list to contend with and will be sweating on the fitness of Robert Snodgrass, Andy Carroll and Sofiane Feghouli for the trip to North Staffordshire.
Pedro Obiang, Angelo Ogbonna and Michail Antonio will all be absent due to ankle, knee and hamstring issues respectively although Mark Noble is set to be recalled after serving a two match ban for accumulating ten yellow cards.
Darren Randolph was dropped to the bench last weekend and Adrian is expected to retain his place in the starting line-up after the Spanish goalkeeper was able to keep a clean sheet against Everton.
Match Prediction: Stoke 1-1 West Ham
Neither team come into this fixture in fine form and although West Ham United’s three game unbeaten run has helped to ease some of the pressure on Slaven Bilic they will struggle to overcome a Stoke City team that are relatively solid on home soil.
Having said that, Mark Hughes’ side have suffered an alarming run of form that has the potential to scupper any hopes that the Welshman had of guiding the club to a fourth successive top-half finish. Neither side look capable of securing a victory, so we predict a draw.