Etherington expects 'difficult' Stoke test

Matty Etherington says West Ham United will have to be at their best to overcome another of his former clubs on Saturday.

Stoke City arrive at the Boleyn Ground in great form, having defeated Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium and as League Cup semi-finalists. After an indifferent start to the campaign results-wise, Mark Hughes’ side have closed the gap on the Hammers to just one point ahead of this weekend’s clash.

Etherington, who spent six seasons with both clubs, reaching the FA Cup final with West Ham in 2006 and Stoke in 2011, is expecting a competitive match between the pair.

The winger, who made 195 appearances in Claret and Blue before turning out 177 times in Red and White, pinpointed Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri and Austrian attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic as Stoke’s two main threats.

“Stoke have got some good players there,” he confirmed. “Shaqiri has been playing his best football recently, especially in their Premier League win over Chelsea, having been disappointing up until then.

“Arnautovic is also a decent player and he seems to have been playing his best football consistently this season, so they are a decent team.

“I don’t think they were performing to their best earlier in the season, yet they’ve made a relatively good start and have now won a few games. I definitely think there is more to come from them.”

While the Potters have picked up their form and results in recent weeks, beating Chelsea twice ahead of last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Manchester City, the Hammers have struggled to pick up points on home turf.

Just nine of West Ham’s 23 points have been gathered from games at the Boleyn Ground, and Etherington expects Stoke to make it tough for Slaven Bilic’s injury-depleted side to add to that tally.

“It’s another difficult home game for West Ham, but all the games in the Premier League are difficult these days. Even the teams down the bottom are fighting and the top teams are finding it hard to beat them.

“It’ll be another hard game at Upton Park, but there is a lot of attacking talent in both teams, so I’m expecting a competitive and entertaining game.”