Stoke lose their leader

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The Independent Online
Stoke City will have to manage without their inspirational captain, Larus Sigurdsson, when they take on West Bromwich Albion at home tonight as he has been called up for international duty by Iceland.

Chic Bates, Stoke's manager, is likely to recall Justin Whittle, who lost his place in central defence after the arrival of Steve Tweed, and the Portuguese striker, Jose Andrade, is a strong contender to break up the attacking partnership of Peter Thorne and Paul Stewart.

West Brom's manager, Ray Harford, has serious selection problems to contend with, because international call-ups have robbed him of the services of Paul Peschisolido and Kevin Kilbane.

Harford could give a debut to the on-loan teenage striker James Thomas, who was recently acquired from Blackburn Rovers.

Paul Mardon, the Welsh international defender, has joined the casualty list at the Hawthorns after suffering a groin strain at Ipswich.

Injury-hit Wolves have suffered another blow in the build-up to the home clash against Port Vale, because their Finnish striker, Mixu Paatelainen, has been called away for World Cup duty and misses the match at Molineux.

Mark McGhee, the Wolves manager, had hoped to delay the former Bolton player's departure. At least his defensive problems have been eased by the arrival on loan of Simon Coleman, a central defender, from Bolton. The Wolves defence is still heavily depleted, though, and McGhee is preparing to give a debut to 20-year-old Chris Westwood.

McGhee, whose side will be looking to record their second home win of the season, knows Port Vale will provide a stern test for his promotion- chasing side. He said: "Port Vale annihilated Sunderland, and we have got to make sure they don't come out against us like that. If they do, we will have to be at our absolute best."

Jan Jansson could make a swift return to Port Vale's midfield after an impressive display for the reserves. The Swede could be brought in instead of Ian Bogie if, as expected, Vale employ their familiar 4-5-1 formation away from home. That would leave Tony Naylor and Lee Mills vying for the role of lone striker.