Forget the wins against Villa, Arsenal, Sunderland, Tottenham or West Brom. Saturday’s match against Hull City has the prospect of being one of the most closely fought encounters so far at the Brit this season.
Stoke have an excellent home record with five wins out of seven, but Hull City have also confounded the critics with some great wins and have an excellent away record this season.
It’s not surprising therefore that a match which looked likely to be a dour relegation scrap back when the fixtures were announced is now a sell-out and looking like a real humdinger.
Tigers’ boss, Phil Brown reckons he know the answer to beating the Potters: score first. If it was that easy then everyone would have done it, wouldn’t they?
Hull City are without a win in five games now and starting to slip down the table but Stoke boss, Tony Pulis certainly will not be complacent: ‘They are very competitive, a strong team. They have lots of things going for them and the main thing is confidence. Results breed confidence, and they are full of it.
‘They don’t give up and they are playing with a togetherness that pushes teams forward.’
Stoke City Team News:
Ricardo Fuller returns from his one match ban. We certainly missed his inventiveness last week, but then, just when you need him, big Mama stepped up with a rare goal to give the Potters the points. With Dave Kitson still suffering after being injured just ten minutes into the encounter with the Baggies, it will probably ease any selection worries with Sidibe likely to start alongside Fuller. Ryan Shawcross will have to wait to see if he is fit after damaging his back in the same game, but Leon Cort will be eager for the call-up and the chance to face his old club. Skipper, Andy Griffin will play despite breaking a bone in his hand during an injury filled afternoon last Saturday.
Player to watch: Michael Tonge
Whether Tonge gets a starting place is in doubt, but there is no doubt that he made the difference in the final stages of last week’s clash against the Baggies, helping to set up the winning goal.
Hull City Team News:
The Tigers’ have certainly confounded the so-called ‘experts’ and probably a sizable proportion of their own fans with a great start to the season after being promoted along with the Potters and boss, Phil Brown is a manager in the same mould as Tony Pulis who’s shown that he can create a good team without having to spend a fortune.
Andy Dawson and Bernard Mendy are unlikely to play because of injury but striker Caleb Folan may feature despite missing training with a knee problem.
Player to watch: Giovanni
Cast aside by Manchester City after just two starts last season, he has been revitalised on Humberside and the Brazilian now has six goals to his name
Match Facts & Stats
It was evens-stevens last season with two 1-1 draws and not much between the teams.
Tuesday 2nd Dec: Derby County (home) Carling Cup kick-off: 7.45pm
Saturday 6th Dec: Newcastle (away) kick-off: 3pm
Saturday 13th December: Fulham (home) kick-off: 3pm