Two games in three days but that’s the punishing Christmas schedule and the Potters make the trip to London in search of that elusive first away win. The Hammers have had a distinctly up and down season under their new manager, Gianfranco Zola. They picked up a 4-1 win at Portsmouth on Boxing Day to make it five games unbeaten on the road but their home form is more problematic and they haven’t won on home soil since September, suffering five defeats and getting only one draw since then.
Tony Pulis has shrugged off speculation about the impending transfer window as Stoke’s available manpower was further depleted with Wilkinson’s sending off on Boxing Day: ‘We have what we have and I’d rather concentrate on picking up a good result against West Ham.
West Ham Team News:
With the Hammers only two points ahead of the Potters, it’s all to play for and the home side will be buoyed by the good win against Pompey. Lucas Neill may miss out with the twisted ankle suffered in the first half at Portsmouth as may Kieron Dyer who is still recovering from injury. Craig Bellamy is suspended after picking up his 5th yellow of the season and will be missed after scoring two and setting up the third on Boxing Day.
Player to watch: Carlton Cole
Cole is now in his third season at West Ham since joining from Chelsea where he’d worked his way up through the ranks amid loan spells at Wolves, Charlton and Villa. With just four goals to his name, he’s still joint top scorer this season with Bellamy.
Stoke City Team News:
Stoke will have to do without Andy Wilkinson after his double yellow on Boxing Day but it may be too early for a return to the starting eleven for Andy Griffin. Liam Lawrence may be risked after he sat out the Man United game on the bench.
Player to watch: Ab Faye
Continues to impress fans with some good play and solid defending and has now added the captain’s armband to his list of achievements with the continuing absence of Griffin.
Match Facts & Stats
Saturday 3rd January: Hartlepool (away) kick-off: 1pm – FA Cup
Saturday 10th January: Liverpool (home) kick-off 5.30pm – Setanta TV
Saturday 17th January: Chelsea (away) kick-off 3pm