West Ham United-Stoke City Preview
With just one win in their last seven Premier League contests, it's getting late early for Stoke City, who find themselves hanging just above the relegation zone with 16 points - two clear of 18th-place Crystal Palace.
Three points on Saturday are a must for Mark Hughes' team as they host West Ham United at Bet365.com Stadium.
The Potters (4-4-9) have managed one goal in the last two games - losses to Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley. They were thoroughly outclassed 5-1 against Spurs, but perhaps just a bit unlucky in the 1-0 midweek defeat to Burnley - something from which Hughes can draw some positives.
Stoke had the better of the play for much of the night and fired seven shots on target, but were unable to prevent Burnley substitute Ashley Barnes' 89th-minute winner.
"I have said before that I don't think performances have been pretty bad, but once again, on Tuesday, we lost the game having done more than enough to have gotten something from it," Hughes said.
"In terms of what we produced physically, sprints, etc, and all other stats like that, we actually out-performed them in all 40 areas of play that we look at. Of course, the stat at the top of the paper says 1-0 to Burnley and we have to accept that. There were enough positives from the game to give us reason to believe we will turn things around sooner rather than later however."
Getting back on the pitch just a few days later should be a positive for the Potters, as recent history does favor them in this fixture.
Stoke are 3-5-0 in all eight Premier League matches against West Ham United under Mark Hughes, who also seems to have David Moyes' number a bit.
Hughes has won his last two home matches against Moyes, beating Manchester United in February 2014 and Sunderland in October 2016, after winning none of his first nine against the Scot in all competitions (0-6-3).
Moyes' West Ham (3-5-9), meanwhile, are trending slightly upward, unbeaten in their last two matches following Wednesday's scoreless draw against Arsenal at Olympic Stadium. However, they are in the middle of the relegation zone heading into the weekend.
After knocking off Chelsea last weekend, the midweek draw with the Gunners was probably less than ideal at home, but defender Pablo Zabaleta believes there are better things coming for the Irons.
"It is a good point, sometimes when you can't win it's important not to lose," he said. "We kept a clean sheet and everything is so tight at the bottom of the table, so now we need to move forward.
"We have a very tough game against Stoke on Saturday, away from home against a team who have struggled recently. Hopefully we can put in another good performance and it would be great if we can get three points."
Striker Javier Hernandez, who returned to the squad against Chelsea and came off the bench for eight minutes against Arsenal, could be a key to victory for the Hammers. Chicharito has four Premier League goals this season, but also a stellar scoring record against Stoke.
The Mexico international has netted five Premier League goals against Stoke City, only scoring more in the competition against Wigan Athletic (6).
Updated December 14, 2017