Stoke City vs West Ham United – Preview
Slaven Bilic just wants West Ham United to finish the Barclays Premier League season by beating Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday, regardless of whether or not they manage to sneak into fifth place as a result.
Ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium, West Ham bid farewell to the Boleyn Ground in style on Tuesday by coming from behind to defeat Manchester United 3-2 and move to within a point of Louis van Gaal’s side.
Another victory will secure at least sixth position for Bilic’s team, though they could take fifth and a UEFA Europa League group-stage spot should United slip up at home to AFC Bournemouth.
However, the West Ham manager is only focused on the task at hand.
“Fifth is difficult but when it comes to the last game it’s always possible with the pressure and everything,” said Bilic. “But we shouldn’t be concentrating on that. We have to do the job, we have a very difficult game because Stoke want to finish on a high.
“They have a good team and all we have to do is try to replicate that performance from Tuesday night and win the game.
“If we win the game we will be happy, definitely, because we will be sixth minimum, fifth possibly if Manchester United slip, or fourth if Manchester City lose 25-0!”
Stoke, meanwhile, will be keen to take all three points and finish in the top half, with ninth place still a possibility should Chelsea fail to defeat champions Leicester City.
Manager Mark Hughes thinks replicating the position they achieved in the 2014-15 season will be considered progress, given their run to the League Cup semi-finals and improvements away from home.
“We still have an opportunity, if we do our job and results go our way, of finishing ninth again,” he said. “We reached our first League Cup semi-final for 40 or 50 years and won more away games than we have in the Premier League before.
“We’ve had a poor spell of injuries, especially towards the end. Overall we are pleased though and we feel we are progressing.”
Bilic’s only injury concern is Adrian, who is unlikely to return in place of Darren Randolph due to a calf strain.
A broken leg sustained in training saw Stephen Ireland add to Hughes’ lengthy injury list, but Shay Given and Glen Johnson could make comebacks on Sunday.
Stoke City (from): Given, Haugaard, Bardsley, Cameron, Johnson, Muniesa, Pieters, Shawcross, Teixeira, Wollscheid, Adam, Imbula, Shaqiri, Shenton, Whelan, Arnautovic, Bojan, Crouch, Diouf, Joselu, Walters.
West Ham United (from): Randolph, Spiegel, Byram, Collins, Cresswell, Henry, O’Brien, Ogbonna, Oxford, Reid, Tomkins, Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini, Moses, Noble, Obiang, Payet, Samuelsen, Song, Carroll, Emenike, Lee, Sakho, Valencia.
Referee: Mike Jones Assistants: M Perry, M Scholes Fourth Official: G Eltringham
– Stoke City are unbeaten in their last five Barclays Premier League matches against West Ham United (W2 D3).
– Stoke have won none of their last four BPL matches at the Britannia Stadium (D2 L2). Not beating West Ham would see them equal their longest run without a home win in the competition (five matches in September 2012).
– West Ham are unbeaten in their last five league away trips (W2 D3), scoring at least two goals in each of those matches.
– West Ham will finish the season with a positive goal difference (currently +15) for the first time in a top-flight campaign since 1985/86.