As Hull City lose away from home by the same scoreline for the second week running, with Stoke City’s talisman Xherdan Shaqiri sealing what will be viewed as a routine 3-1 win for the Potters today with his stunning 25 yard goal, pressure has once again been heaped onto Hull City’s impressive recent home form as the Tigers are forced to rely on other results to keep ourselves outside the Premier League relegation zone.
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While the 3-1 defeat will indeed be seen as the game Mark Hughes’ mid-table Stoke side arrested their woeful run of bad form with a comprehensive victory over a relegation threatened minnow, the scoreline does little to tell the whole story of the game. Marco Silva’s men battled hard and played, for large periods of the game at least, the better football of the two sides. However, once again, poor finishing and several lapses in defensive concentration cost us dearly. Fortunately, with relegation rival Swansea City losing against Watford, Hull City remain outside the relegation zone by two clear points with five fixtures remaining. Despite today’s disappointment, our fate is still very much in our own hands.
As I noted in this blog last week, Marco Silva needed to take calculated risks for this game, and while we did fight back admirably when behind in the game, a slight lack of both ambition and, to a certain extent, a lack of luck cost us today. I was praying for a return to a 4-4-2 formation, with a flat back four and two strikers starting on the pitch. However, as Silva has tended to do away from home since becoming manager in January, he opted for just one striker. This saw Oumar Niasse start up-front, and a makeshift defence of either Maguire or Markovic in the right-back/wing-back position, depending on interpretation.
Yet another defeat away from home, which sees our winless streak on the road stretch to nearly eight months, makes our next two home fixtures vital if we are to secure our Premier League status. Next Saturday Watford visit the KCOM, while all but relegated Sunderland visit two weeks later. Wins in both of these games would give Hull City 36 points, with any points taken away at Southampton on weekend in between these two games surely being bonus points. In the same three-week period, Swansea face Stoke and Everton at home, and Manchester United at Old Trafford. I am certainly more confident looking at City’s next three fixtures, however, nothing is that certain in the Premier League.
Indeed, with Sunderland and Middlesbrough now looking all but relegated already, it is looking increasingly as though there is only one more relegation spot to be filled – but will it be filled by the Swans or the Tigers? While Hull City’s defeat at Stoke today has certainly heaped more pressure onto our impressive home form as a method of keeping us in the Premier League, this pressure is surely preferable to Swansea’s current situation – no win in five, two points from safety, and only five more games to reclaim lost ground. Fasten your seatbelts – it’s going to be a photo-finish at the bottom of the Premier League.