Stoke vs West Ham preview
Saturday 2nd May 2009
Four matches to go and the penultimate home game for the Potters at the end of our first season in the Premier League sees the Hammers make the trip to the Brit.
Fans will be pleased to hear that James Beattie should return after missing the Fulham match with a thigh injury. Matty Etherington and Beatts have been regarding as two of the best signings in the Premier League during the January transfer window and Matty will be raring to go as he faces his old club. He spent five seasons at Upton Park and has rubbished media rumours this week that he had not settled at the Brit and was looking for a quick return to a London club.
With Stoke's Premier League survival looking good (albeit not yet assured), there's no way that the team should rest on their laurels and I'm sure that there is a decent bonus on offer to the players as the club gain an additional £800,000 for every additional rung up the ladder.
The Hammers' boss, Gianfranco Zola, has praised his former player, Matt Etherington. He told the official site: I think he needed to go,' Zola said. 'He needed to have a new experience away from here. It is simple as that. He did very well for me, especially at the beginning. Then he got injured and he had a few problems but he is a good player and I am not surprised he has done well for Stoke.'
Stoke City Team News:
Beattie is said to be fit after missing training for the last week, Andy Wilkinson has also returned to training but is still regarded as doubtful after a back problem during the Blackburn match two weeks ago.
Mamady Sidibe, Amdy Faye, Salif Diao and Danny Higginbotham are all now confirmed as out for the remainder of the season.
Player to watch: Liam Lawrence
The midfielder has regained the form that helped take the Potters to the Premier League twelve months ago. He's now fully recovered from the infamous trip over his pet Labrador that ruled him out for nearly four months in the first half of the season and the goal against Blackburn two weeks ago showed that he's not lost his goalscoring touch.
West Ham Team News:
The Hammers succumbed to a single goal against Chelsea at Upton Park last weekend and have no new injury worries but Jack Collison and Carlton Cole are still injured.
Player to watch: David Di Michele
No one comes close to the injured Carlton Cole's league goal-scoring record of nine this season, but back in second place (with four) is the Italian international striker who is on a season long loan from Torino.
Match Facts & Stats
The reverse fixture at the end of last year was the scene of the infamous Fuller/Griffin incident which ended with Ric getting red-carded and a 2-1 defeat for the Potters.
Peter Walton. The third time he's officiated a Stoke match this season, but the first at the Brit with the previous two at Blackburn and Chelsea.
Saturday 9th May: Hull (away) kick-off: 3pm
Saturday 16th May: Wigan (home) kick-off: 3pm
Sunday 24th May: Arsenal (away) kick-off: 4pm