A top-ten place, team selection, Stoke City’s form, Peter Crouch and Mark Hughes’ managerial record are all up for discussion!
1. Top-ten target
If West Ham United win on Saturday and results elsewhere fall their way, the Hammers could end the weekend’s round of fixtures in the Premier League’s top ten.
It will need plenty of matches to fall in West Ham’s favour, however, as a win for either one of AFC Bournemouth at Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, Crystal Palace at home to Burnley on Saturday evening, or Watford at home to Liverpool on Monday evening would leave Slaven Bilic’s side in the bottom half.
Wherever they stand come Tuesday morning, victory over Stoke City will take West Ham above their opponents and onto 41 points, surely securing their Premier League safety in the process.
2. Making his Mark 1
Havard Nordtveit and Cheikhou Kouyate excelled in central midfield in last weekend’s goalless home draw with Everton, and it would be a brave manager who replaces either the Norwegian or the Senegalese.
With the back three expected to remain in place, one option if Slaven Bilic wants to restore his skipper would be to move Kouyate to right wing-back and leave out Edimilson Fernandes, but the young Swiss was also impressive against the Blues.
So, the big question is, will the captain make his Mark, or will he start on the substitutes’ bench at Stoke?
3. Are the Potters on the beach?
The old football cliché goes that once mid-table clubs get close to 40 points, they metaphorically ‘pack their suitcases and head for the beach’.
The suggestion is that teams who have little but prize money and pride to play for drop their standards, both physically and mentally, as the season approaches its conclusion.
Stoke City have been safe for weeks, if not months, having reached 30 points by beating Crystal Palace in mid-February, but have won just two – against struggling Middlesbrough and Hull City – and lost six of the nine Premier League matches they have played since then.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Peter Crouch has been making life difficult for Premier League defenders for 15 years now.
The tall but technically-gifted former England striker has made 428 top-flight appearances, scoring 101 goals, including 38 in the colours of Stoke City.
In his long and illustrious career, Crouch has faced West Ham United on 15 occasions, tasting victory eight times, losing just three, scoring three goals and assisting four more.
They might outnumber the big centre forward, and he might be 36, but James Collins, Winston Reid and Jose Fonte will undoubtedly have a difficult afternoon if Peter Crouch’s name appears on the Stoke teamsheet.
5. Making his Mark 2
Mark Hughes has enjoyed success in his managerial career and is considered one of the best British bosses around.
The former Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea and Wales centre forward has developed a reputation for producing teams which are well-balanced and play attractive football.
However, that approach did not initially work too well against West Ham United, with Hughes’ Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Manchester City teams winning just three and losing nine of the 13 matches they contested against the Hammers.
Since moving to Stoke, however, the Welshman has enjoyed great success, winning three, drawing four and losing none.