Sam Allardyce and West Ham head to fortress Britannia on Saturday looking to all but secure Premier League football for next season. After an injury-plagued first half of the campaign that saw the visitors flirt dangerously with relegation, a string of solid performances built on the foundation of a defence that rarely concedes has seen them rise to the lofty heights of 10th level on points with this weekend’s opponents.
David Gold and David Sullivan stuck by their manager during a period of uncertainty at Upton Park and have been rewarded for their loyalty – the Hammers have picked up 13 points of the last 18 available – and a second consecutive top-half finish will be firmly in their sights.
Despite Stoke’s home form this year, West Ham have an impressive record at their ground having only lost once in four visits. Jack Collison netted the winner in this fixture last term, and another successful return will see them stretch three clear of Mark Hughes’ men.
On the other hand, Stoke will be looking to do the same and having already beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal on home soil this season, a continuation of results like that at the Britannia could well see Hughes guide the Potters to a top-10 finish in his first season in charge.
They’re in impressive form themselves, only tasting defeat once in their last six domestically, and after victory in east London earlier on this campaign they’ll be looking to secure their first league double over the Hammers since their return to the English top flight in 2008.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 3pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
West Ham 0-1 Stoke (Pennant), Premier League
Stoke 0-1 West Ham (Collison). Premier League
West Ham (O’Brien) 1-1 Stoke (Walters), Premier League
West Ham have conceded just one goal and kept three clean sheets in their last four Premier League away outings
However, in the season’s corresponding fixture, the Hammers didn’t manage a single shot on target
Only five teams have picked up more points at home than Stoke this season
Stoke have lost just one of their last 11 at home
The visitors have lost just one of their four games at the Britannia Stadium
Stoke to win: 2.25
West Ham to win: 3.6
TV: Highlights on BBC One, 10.30pm Saturday