Stoke City-West Brom Preview
West Bromwich Albion are aiming for a second straight Premier League win on Saturday when they welcome a surging Stoke City to the Hawthorns.
Tony Pulis' side stopped a five-match winless slide last time out with a 1-0 victory over struggling Newcastle United thanks to a 78th-minute strike from former Manchester United man Darren Fletcher, but Stoke City present a unique challenge for the Baggies, even at home, and they will have to be at their bunkering best if they are to get a result.
Pulis praised his back room staff following the win over Newcastle United.
"The first ten minutes we should have been three up and the game could have been over but the longer it goes on the more we need to give Newcastle credit - they defended stoutly," the manager said. Thankfully the goal came at the end. And we deserved it. Our fitness levels were superb. The work and recovery our medical staff have done to turn the players over from one game to the next deserves great credit."
The club could be a bit shorthanded as both forward Victor Anichebe and defender Jonas Olsson both were forced off due to injuries.
"Vic is a top player. He showed that today," Pulis added. "They just couldn't handle him and he did very well.Fingers crossed he and Jonas will be ok for the Stoke game - it's been suggested that it might just be cramp. Hopefully it won't be any more."
Under Pulis, the Baggies (6-5-8) have adopted a defence-first, bunker deep counterattacking style, which is usually less entertaining for the fans, but largely effective.
West Brom have not scored more than two goals in any contest this season, which could present a large problem Saturday versus a seemingly revolutionised Stoke team full of playmakers and attacking flair.
The Potters (8-5-6) have won back-to-back league matches, including Monday's wild 4-3 victory over Everton that included a pair of goals from Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri - one of which was an outrageous chipped effort in the 45th minute that is sure to be a candidate for Premier League goal of the season.
The club-record £12 million summer signing from Inter Milan believes confidence is the key to Stoke's recent surge up the table.
"I am really proud and really happy to score my first goals for Stoke", the Swiss international said to stokecityfc.com. "I've scored a lot of good goals but I think for the moment, it is one of my more beautiful goals because it's one of my early goals for this club.
"I'm proud of everybody in the team because we are playing with a lot of confidence and we are fighting until the very end to get positive results. We have our feet on the ground and take it game-by-game so we must continue to work hard together as a team and that way we can win a lot of games and have a successful season."
Manager Mark Hughes also expressed his delight with the Swiss international's transition to English football."It was only a matter of time that he would score and I think people have seen in recent weeks that he's been getting to grips with his league," the Welshman said. "He's starting to learn what opposition players will do to stop his threat, but he is an intelligent footballer and he knows how to affect a game positively. He's done that today not just with his goals, which we are delighted about, but also in his overall general play. "
West Brom are going for the double after posting a 1-0 victory at Brittania Stadium in August on a goal by Salomon Rondon in first-half stoppage time. The Baggies have won the last two between the teams after going 1-3-7 in the previous 11 top-flight matches.