Two sides marooned in the middle of the Premier League table meet today (Saturday) as West Ham United entertain Stoke City at Upton Park.
The Hammers have lost four of their last five league matches and have claimed just one victory in the Premier League since the middle of January. Sam Allardyce’s side are ninth in the table on 42 points from 31 matches and are in need of a late-season return to form as speculation continues to mount about the future of their manager.
West Ham midfielder Stewart Downing is relishing the chance of facing Stoke for the second time this season after helping the Hammers rally from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw at the Britannia Stadium on November 1. Downing crossed for Enner Valencia to head home the Hammers’ first goal on the hour mark and then fired in the equaliser himself after 73 minutes.
“It was a good game for me when we played earlier in the season, scoring one and setting Enner up too,” Downing told his club’s website. “It was a game of two halves – in the first half we were poor and didn’t get going, but in the second half we were really good.
“We need to get back to winning ways on Saturday because we don’t want the season to tail off – we want to finish as strongly as we can.”
The Potters also have 42 points but are one place below West Ham in the standings due to the London side’s superior goal differential. Stoke are also going through a bad patch and have lost their last three top-flight matches, including last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at table-topping Chelsea.
The match at Stamford Bridge will be best remembered for a sensational equaliser from Stoke’s Charlie Adam, who scored with an audacious strike from inside his own half after spotting Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had strayed off his line. It was a brilliant goal but Stoke still left London without a point as Chelsea striker Loic Remy capitalised on a mistake from Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to hit a winner for the Blues just past the hour mark.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes said he took some positives from the Chelsea match.
“To be honest, up until Charlie’s quite outstanding goal at the end of the first half I never thought we were really in the game,” Hughes told his club’s website. “We just never really got going in the first half and struggled to contain Chelsea, but credit to them because they were very impressive up until that point.
“But after that, during the second half, I thought we produced a far more accomplished performance and stood toe-to-toe with a side that look like they will end the season as champions.”
The Hammers hope to have forward Valencia back in their squad for the Stoke match. The Ecuador international has been sidelined since the start of March with a toe injury. Fellow striker Andy Carroll is still absent with knee trouble.
The Potters will have on-loan winger Victor Moses available again after being ineligible to play against his parent club Chelsea last week. Peter Odemwingie and Bojan remain sidelined with knee injuries.
Stoke claimed a league double over West Ham last season, winning 3-1 at home after a 1-0 victory in London.
Source: ScoreMobile FC
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