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Premier League preview: Stoke v West Ham
Created on 01 Mar., 2013 8:00 AM GMT
Two teams struggling for form go head to head when Stoke City host West Ham United in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Hosts Stoke have only managed one win in their past eight league matches, also exiting the FA Cup at the hands of Manchester City during that sorry run.
Their only triumph of late arrived in the shape of a 2-1 win at home to battling Reading, a result sandwiched between 1-0 defeats away to Arsenal and Fulham.
Stoke have no cause to begin looking over their shoulder just yet - they remain 10th on the table, unlikely to threaten the European hopefuls, but a healthy nine points clear of the bottom three.
West Ham, meanwhile, are likely to be more concerned.
Promoted via the playoffs last term, they made a strong start to life back in the top flight, but have recorded one win in their past seven league fixtures, slipping to 14th on the table.
With only six points between the Hammers and the drop zone, Sam Allardyce will want his players to rediscover their early season form soon, or risk getting sucked into the dogfight at the bottom of the table.
West Ham were somewhat unfortunate not to earn a point at home to Tottenham on Monday, when Gareth Bale's late goal sealed a 3-2 win for Spurs.
Allardyce could welcome back several players for the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
Defenders James Tomkins (illness) and George McCartney (knee) are both nearing a return, although young fullback Danny Potts is still out following a severe concussion sustained against Arsenal in January.
Further forward, club captain Kevin Nolan (knock) and fellow midfielder Mark Noble (shoulder) are both in contention to play.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is without suspended first-choice centre-back Robert Huth, but winger Matthew Etherington could shake off a back injury to feature.
Reserve striker Michael Owen (thigh) is unlikely to play.