Big Match Preview

MAGICAL things can happen to West Ham United when they travel to Stoke City, WRITES DAVE EVANS. Last season it didn t come more magical, or unexpected for that matter, than Diego Tristan scoring the winner at the Britannia Stadium with a thumping free kic

MAGICAL things can happen to West Ham United when they travel to Stoke City, WRITES DAVE EVANS.

Last season it didn't come more magical, or unexpected for that matter, than Diego Tristan scoring the winner at the Britannia Stadium with a thumping free kick.

All had pointed towards a Stoke City victory with the long grass, supposedly the loudest fans in the universe as well as the tactical skills of Rory Delap's long throws, surely giving Stoke the upper hand.

But in the end, Tristan silenced the home supporters in a way that he never managed with his own during his tortuous time at Upton Park.


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West Ham have in fact won on their last four visits to Stoke, though the first of those was at the Victoria Ground rather than the Britannia.

Slowly and surely, Tony Pulis has turned a team with low expectations into one that seems to be showing they are here for the long haul in the Premier League.

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Having finished a commendable 12th last term, they added to their squad by raiding the north east, much as the Vikings had done in centuries past, though with far less violence.

They grabbed Dean Whitehead and Danny Collins from Sunderland and Robert Huth and Tuncay Sanli from relegated Middlesbrough, and all have had an important part to play in the Potters' bright start to the season.

They have lost their last two home games, but they were against Manchester United and Chelsea, with the latter only taking the points in injury time, so Stoke will certainly be confident of bouncing back against the lowly Hammers.

Goals have been their biggest problem so far. They have managed only six in their eight league games to date, with Huth and Dave Kitson on two apiece.

Striker Kitson will certainly be looking forward to tackling the Hammers once again. In his Reading days he used to score goals for fun against them, including a hat-trick at the Madejski back in 2005, and he will be eager to add to that tally.

Matty Etherington will also be keen to get one over his old team following his January move to Stoke, as the side look to improve on their current position of 11th - four points clear of West Ham.

Aside from Man United and Chelsea, they have also played and beaten Burnley 2-0 and Sunderland 1-0 at the Britannia and they will be favourites to make it three wins.

West Ham are desperate for a win of course, and with Guillermo Franco expected to finally bolster the attack and Jack Collison and Valon Behrami fit to start, the Hammers will have their best chance of achieving it.

Confidence is low though, and they may have to settle for a point.

POSSIBLE TEAM: Sorensen, Huth, Faye, Collins, Shawcross, Delap, Etherington, Whitehead, Diao, Kitson, Beattie.

Prediction:

Stoke City 1 West Ham 1

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