It’s been all smiles in Staffordshire the last few weeks. The Potters are playing well and results are coming. A different test awaits on Saturday in the form of West Ham United.
Stoke City travel to East London looking for a fourth consecutive win. In their way…a boisterous crowd and an unpredictable Hammers side.
Back in September, Stoke were in the chokehold that was the bottom three. Just over a month on, and the Potters are on the verge of cracking the top half. Talk about a turnaround.
With a volatile atmosphere and a West Ham side out to prove themselves, can Stoke keep the momentum going?
Big pressure on Joe Allen to deliver for Stoke City
It’s going to be a big game for Stoke in many ways and you can read into this deeper here:
Perhaps the stand-out complication for Mark Hughes is the selection headache up front.
Twenty minutes into the game with Swansea on Monday night, all four pieces of Stoke’s attacking jigsaw clicked.
Wilfried Bony had scored and Stoke looked formidable.
Moments later, Xherdan Shaqiri was forced off, with Marko Arnautovic being shown his fifth yellow card of the season later on.
Both players being absent couldn’t have come at a worse time; everything was looking good.
The loss of half the attack though isn’t the end of the world. It does though mean that Joe Allen must continue his run of form.
Bony can quite easily get isolated up front and Allen will now have to assume most of the service responsibility.
If his current run of form is anything to go by, he is more than capable.
Defence has to stay solid
West Ham have had their scoring issues recently. Results perhaps haven’t gone their way, but the threat always remains.
These days we don’t really know which Hammers side is going to turn up.
More likely than not, though, that it will contain Dimitri Payet. The French playmaker is unplayable on his day.
Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi must be solid and organised at the back as miscommunications and mistakes will be punished by players of Payet’s calibre.
Stoke City have conceded only two goals in their last four games, whereas West Ham have only scored three in as many.
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If the recent goal differential column is anything to go by, the signs look good for Shawcross and company.
With respect to the opposition, Stoke had a relatively straight-forward October.
Three of the four games came against the current occupants of the drop zone; not that Stoke can’t use those wins as a platform to build on.
The game at West Ham will be a different test for the Stoke players, but I don’t think it’s one they can’t handle.
Not many teams are enjoying the prospect of going there due to recent off-field issues, but on the pitch Stoke shouldn’t have too much to fear.
Dimitri Payet aside, I don’t think the Hammers side has too much threat going forward provided the defence stays organised and focused.
If Stoke settle into the game quickly, then they should find it easier to dictate the game and control the tempo.
While Allen has been playing superbly, I think he’ll miss having the likes of Shaqiri and Arnautovic as wide options for him to use.
Stoke may lack some creativity tomorrow, but as long as things are kept tight at the back, then a point should be more than achievable. 1-1.