West Ham United-Stoke City Preview
Stoke City and West Ham United will both be looking to move to within touching distance of Premier League safety when they meet at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce's West Ham (8-7-13) won four on the bounce prior to their most recent 1-0 defeat to Everton, helping them to pull six points clear of the relegation zone. However, with 10 matches to go, the Hammers boss is fully aware his team is far from safe.
"It's 10 games to go, 10 very important games to try and achieve as many points as we possibly can," said Allardyce. "We'd have to say at this stage of the season it's about how quickly can you get safe. How quickly as a squad of players can you achieve the results you need to achieve to secure your position in the Premier League. Then it's an opportunity to ease the pressure on the players that everybody has at this stage of the season.
"You see how far then you can finish in the league. First priority is how quickly can you achieve safety, and then from there it's about whether you can go on from there."
Mark Hughes' Stoke side (7-10-12) are level on points with the Hammers, but have won just one of their last five league games as the Potters limp to the finish line in his first season. The Potters have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 league games, but are top of the Premier League's foul and card tables with 385 fouls and 67 cards.
However, Stoke's home record has been their saving grace this season, with 24 points on their own patch for the sixth-best record in the division - something Allardyce is keenly aware of.
"It's always a real tough game against Stoke," said Allardyce. "This season their home form has been very, very good as it generally was under Tony (Pulis) and Mark's done the same."
Stoke's Asmir Begovic this week had to shrug off speculation he is set for a summer move to Real Madrid, with the goalkeeper speaking of his pride at being linked with such a glamorous move.
"I'm proud to read that sort of stuff, but it's just rumours," said Begovic. "There's nothing official or any contact with anyone from Madrid.
"It's extraordinary, brilliant, to be linked with a club like that, one of the biggest in the world. But I'm very happy at Stoke and I have an excellent position here. I only think about my club."
Stoke have injury concerns over Oussama Assaidi (knee) and Robert Huth (knee), while West Ham have doubts over Marco Borriello (calf), Ricardo Vaz Te (hamstring) and Joey O'Brien (shoulder).
The Potters won 1-0 when these teams met at Upton Park back in August, with Jermaine Pennant scoring the winner eight minutes from time.
The record between these teams in the last eight meetings is totally even, with each team winning three the other two ending in draws. Neither team has scored more than a single goal in the last three match-ups.
West Ham have never achieved the double over Stoke City in the Premier League.