Saturday afternoon throws up a clash between two clubs separated by just a couple of points in the Premier League table, as West Ham United host Stoke City.
The Hammers looked to have turned a corner before last weekend’s game at Everton having won three on the bounce in all competitions, but they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park which leaves them only three points above the relegation zone.
Winston Reid will miss this one after picking up a suspension; the vice-captain would most likely have been sidelined anyway with a hamstring strain.
SB: “But we are playing well and are optimistic going into the game. @WinstonReid2 picked up a grade one hamstring injury but is suspended.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) November 3, 2016
Gokhan Tore, Andy Carroll, Arthur Masuaku and Diafra Sakho are all still carrying injuries that will keep them out until nearer the end of the month, but there has been no timeline placed on full-back Sam Byram’s hamstring tear after he underwent surgery in October.
Summer signing Andre Ayew came off the bench to face the Toffees last week and will be keen to make a return to Slaven Bilic’s starting XI for the first time since the opening day of the campaign.
Andre Ayew returns to the national team after missing the previous game against Uganda in Tamale last month. pic.twitter.com/d3K8cBmcgh
— Ghana FA (@ghanafaofficial) November 3, 2016
Dimitri Payet as always will be key to unlocking the Stoke defence; the Frenchman already has five assists in the Premier League and has formed a lethal partnership with West Ham’s top scorer Michail Antonio.
As for the Potters, they secured a 3-1 win over Swansea City on Monday night to make it five games unbeaten in the league, a run stretching back to mid-September when they were defeated 4-1 by Crystal Palace.
Mark Hughes appears to have steadied the ship after a disastrous start to the season and will be buoyed by star striker Wilfried Bony’s gradual improvement in form after he notched his first goals for the club in the victory over the Swans.
However, he may have to make do without two of his other primary attacking threats, as Marco Arnautovic misses out through suspension and Xherdan Shaqiri faces a late fitness test with a hamstring problem.
MH on Shaqiri availability: He needs to train today and we need to see if he comes through that. If he does then he has a chance. #SCFC
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) November 4, 2016
Ramadan Sobhi is likely to deputise on the wing, while Charlie Adam will hope to keep his place after starting his first league game this term on Monday.
Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are both ruled out until the New Year with injury, whilst Geoff Cameron, Jack Butland and Glen Johnson will sit out this weekend’s match but could return towards the back end of November.
Joe Allen has already equalled his career-best haul of four Premier League goals and will be aiming to add to that tally as he revels in his new-found attacking role.
Joe Allen has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season (6) than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba combined (5). pic.twitter.com/VE6LsZlmuE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 31, 2016
Bilic will see this as a must-win game for the Hammers, but Stoke have looked dangerous in recent weeks and there is no telling which West Ham side will turn up at the London Stadium.
Possible West Ham starting XI (3-4-3): Adrian; Kouyate, Collins, Ogbonna; Antonio, Noble, Obiang, Cresswell; Lanzini, Ayew, Payet
Possible Stoke City starting XI (4-2-3-1): Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Adam; Walters, Allen, Sobhi; Bony