Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday December 21 2007
22nd December 2007
Arguably the most anticipated match (so far) of the season is Saturday's top of the table tussle with the Baggies.
Our local Midlands rivals have not had the best of times in recent meetings with the Potters - only winning 2 out of the last 22 meetings, but we can't afford any complacancy against the team that are the current league leaders.
Tony Pulis reckons that West Brom are the closest we'll see to Premier League standard in the Championship at the Brit this season and is looking forward to a good game.
He told the official site: 'West Brom are by far the best footballing side in this division. It is going to be an extremely tough game and we will need absolutely everybody at the top of their game.'
Only Dominic Matteo and Salif Diao are definitely unavailable and the gaffer will have to decide whether to start with the same eleven that beat Blackpool last week or if to give Stephen Wright a start after he needed stitches in a head injury in the Potters' last home game against Watford.
Shawcross has been given the green light by Man United to remain at the Brit until the end of the season and along with Ric Fuller, who signed a two year contract extension this week, should get a rousing reception from Stoke fans.
The Baggies will bring at least 2,500 travelling supporters.
Carl Hoefkens, although having missed the last two games with a hamstring problem, is likely to feature against his old club, as is goalkeeper Dean Kiely who has also missed the last two games with a broken toe.
Former Potter, Carl Hoefkens will be making his first return to the Brit since his move to WBA in the summer and he has warned his team-mates to beware the frosty reception from both the Potters' fans and the Brit itself.
'We have to be really prepared for it because it is really cold. I think they built the stadium on top of a hill on purpose so the wind can blow straight through it!'
Adding: 'The fans will really back them and for them it is one of the biggest games of the year.'
Don't let the Potters' excellent record against the Baggies lull you into a false sense of security, this, as in all games, still has to be won.
Boxing Day: Barnsley (away) kick-off 3pm
Sat 29th Dec: Plymouth (away) kick-off: 3pm
New Year's Day: Hull (home) kick-off 3pm
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Date:Friday December 21 2007
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