West Ham vs Stoke City: Match preview and predicted line-ups
These two clubs both started the season poorly, but Stoke have managed to find their stride in recent weeks unlike West Ham. The Hammers are still struggling at the wrong end of the table and there are growing doubts about Slaven Bilic’s ability to turn it around. It is a huge game for the home side and one that they really need to win.
There were hopes that West Ham would have a successful season to begin life in their new stadium, but their start suggests the opposite. The London Stadium doesn’t feel like home and sides arrive with confidence of taking something from the game. Stoke City will be no different and they will pose a real threat to West Ham with the attacking players that they have in their ranks.
Although Stoke have won their last three matches, they have come against the current bottom three. They can only beat what is in front of them, but they will have to prove themselves against better opposition before they can be considered a good side. Mark Hughes has done well to arrest the slide at the Bet365 Stadium and another victory this weekend should be enough to propel his side into the top half of the table. The main problem with Stoke is that their attackers are mercurial and lack consistency. On their day, they can be sublime, but they can be equally poor when things aren’t going their way.
West Ham had been undergoing a mini-recovery with seven points from three matches before their defeat last weekend to Everton. It was a reminder of the task on Bilic’s hands as they were second best in every department. Their problems have been at the back, as they look unorganised and lack the structure that they had last season. It has been a bad first ten games, but West Ham have the quality in their squad to climb the table.
Stoke City are in inspired form at the moment, taking 11 points from their last five matches. They haven’t lost in the Premier League since September and are now well placed in mid table. Hughes will be most pleased about the improvement in his defence. They conceded 14 times in their first five matches, but have conceded just three in their last five. Despite facing poor opposition, Stoke have grown in confidence and they will be keen to extend their good run this weekend against a struggling West Ham side.
The home side are likely to continue with their 3-4-3 formation as there had been signs of improvement before their defeat to Everton. Bilic is not likely to make many changes this weekend, but it is possible that Andre Ayew is given an opportunity to start after recovering from the injury that he suffered on the opening day.
Geoff Cameron is likely to be back for the away side, but Xherdan Shaqiri is a major doubt. Marko Arnautovic will definitely be out through suspension. Ramadan Sobhi could be given the opportunity to start on the left, while Bojan is the likely replacement for Shaqiri if he fails to make the match.
West Ham Stoke City
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Sofiane Feghouli is a doubt for the home side with a hamstring strain. He joins Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Arthur Masuaku, Sam Byram and Gokhan Tore on a lengthy injury list. This is an area that West Ham need to improve on as Bilic’s squad seems to be getting smaller on a weekly basis.
Geoff Cameron and Xherdan Shaqiri are both facing late fitness tests ahead of the trip to London. Marko Arnautovic will be serving a one-match-ban after accumulating five yellow cards this season. Ibrahim Afellay, Stephen Ireland, Jack Butland and Glen Johnson will all be unavailable to Mark Hughes this weekend.
This is a tight match to call as neither side have impressed me this season. They have undergone somewhat of a recovery in recent weeks, but they have been helped by the calibre of opposition. We will learn a lot about both sides this weekend. I think the most likely result is a draw. The pressure will be on West Ham to pick up the three points, but I fancy Stoke to frustrate the home side and leave with a point.
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