Following the draw against Everton, West Ham face Stoke City tomorrow in what will be our 35th game of the Premier League season. When we faced Stoke in November, we drew 1-1. Can we beat them this time around? Here are three things to look out for…
It seems like we have been watching Andy Carroll ‘return’ for multiple times per season since he has joined the club. His luck with injuries has meant that he has only started 15 games in the Premier League this season. David Gold tweeted that Carroll ‘should be available’ though Slaven Bilic later confirmed that the game has ‘come too soon’ for him and Carroll will not be in the squad.
With West Ham continuously being linked to strikers, was this Carroll’s last season to prove that he should be the main striker at the club? His absence from the team means that West Ham will undoubtedly look to sign a striker in the summer. But what does this mean for Carroll’s future at the club? With Diafra Sakho coming on as a sub against Everton, we may see him start against Stoke and his quality has been missed this season.
Will this be the game that secures us safety?
Going to the bet365 Stadium is tough for all teams in the Premier League and we have to overturn our recent record against Stoke. In our last ten meetings in the Premier League, we have only won two games. Stoke are not performing well having lost five games out of their last six, giving us a good chance to not go three games without a win.
With relegation fears being ever-present over the past few weeks, a win in this game is crucial. A win will almost certainly mean that we will not be relegated this season given that we will have broken the 40-point barrier.
Key battle – Mark Noble / Havard Nordtveit v. Joe Allen
Mark Noble will be returning to the team following his two-game ban and it is likely that he will be put straight back into the starting eleven. But what does this mean for Havard Nordtveit? He finally played in midfield against Everton and his qualities were evident. Bilic even said that “the more games he gets, the better he’ll play” (whufc.com). Could we see Bilic start both in midfield?
Joe Allen will be the key to Stoke playing well given his passing ability and limiting his impact on the game will help us limit Stoke’s control of the game. Let’s not forget Stoke’s ability from set-pieces with Peter Crouch in the team. We cannot give away many free-kicks close to goal or we will be punished.
My prediction? 1-2.