Saturday sees twins West Ham and Stoke battle it out at the Boleyn. Surely there will be blood, snot and more blood?
Well no, not from West Ham anyway. Poor old Sam has had to deal with this long ball tag all throughout his career. It isn't likely to change, but that won't stop me trying to clear his name!
West Ham do have the ability to mix it up, certainly at home. Last season saw some impressive home results. The demolition of Fulham, Southampton and Chelsea. There was some truly beautiful goals scored (see Diame against Man U). Yet Mr Allardyce has to listen to how he sets his team to play route one. Simply not true.
Stoke, well... I haven't watched much of them. They don't have any players that I particularly enjoy watching. However unlike many folk I do like Hughes and think he will do a good job with them. He hasn't had the chance to bring in many players, but I'd say the squad he does have is probably strong enough to stay up. Always helps having a solid keeper and in Begović they most certainly have that. I wouldn't be surprised to see him join City if the price is right. Having an able replacement in Butland certainly makes the predicament easier.
I managed to catch a bit of the Stoke vs. Palace game on MOTD and thought they looked extremely poor at the back (Chamakh who failed to any impression at all at West Ham seemed to cause mayhem against Shawcross and Huth) however the question is if West Ham can take advantage.
Maiga was horrendous against Newcastle, he just didn't seem cut out as a lone striker. A real lack of work rate which started to annoy the Hammers faithful. With Carroll out due to this injury it leaves us extremely short of options (I'd expect Sam to get us at least one striker in before Tuesday and please not Shola Ameobi), Vaz Te I'd dare say has played his last game for us after handing in a transfer request. There doesn't seem to be any youth prospects knocking on the door for a start so I'd imagine that Maiga will retain his place against Stoke.
The key area for West Ham is midfield, with the pace of Jarvis and Downing on the wings, the power and presence that Diame commands and with Noble able to pick a excellent pass, West Ham need all four to put in a solid display. I'd certainly say player for player that West Ham's starting midfield is stronger than Stoke's.
For the reason above I will go for a home win. A chance for West Ham to end August in the Champions League places! The start of the season was always going to be key for West Ham, six games that all on paper were winnable. A good start could continue tomorrow as long as the basics are carried out with minimum fuss.