Paul Lambert takes charge of Stoke City for the first time this Saturday as the Potters host Huddersfield in a real six-pointer at the bottom of the Premier League.
Lambert watched from the stands as Stoke lost 3-0 at Manchester United on Monday night – their seventh defeat in their last nine games. In the process, Stoke became the first side in Europe's top five leagues to concede 50 goals this season.
Huddersfield also lost heavily last weekend, conceding three times in fifteen second-half minutes to go down 4-1 at home to West Ham. David Wagner’s team had a good start to life in the Premier League, but are now just four points above the bottom three, and are in desperate need of a win to halt their slide.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this contest at the bet365 Stadium:
Huddersfield 1-1 Stoke (26 December 2017, Premier League)
You wait sixteen years for a fixture between Stoke and Huddersfield, then two come along in the space of a month.
Not that anyone was particularly anticipating this Boxing Day clash, but it actually turned out to be quite a good game. Huddersfield started the brighter and led after just ten minutes when Tom Ince scored his first goal of the season from Colin Quaner's cut-back. Goalkeeper Jonas Lössl was the hero at the other end, somehow preventing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's overhead kick from crossing the line.
However, Stoke did finally get their reward when Joe Allen's cross was tapped in by Ramadan Sobhi in the second half. Both sides had big penalty appeals turned down for clear fouls on Aaron Mooy at one end and Mame Biram Diouf at the other, as this entertaining match ended in controversial fashion.
Joe Allen & Darren Fletcher vs Jonathan Hogg & Aaron Mooy
With neither side having a single player who has scored more than five goals this season, this might not be a goal-packed game. The key battle will therefore be in the centre of the park. Most of Huddersfield’s squad are Championship-standard players with Premier League attitude, but Aaron Mooy is one of the few who will probably remain in the top-flight next season if Huddersfield are relegated. Jonathan Hogg lacks Mooy’s attacking prowess but he plays a key role in disrupting things from defensive midfield.
From Premier League newbies to Premier League veterans, Darren Fletcher and Joe Allen have been around the block a few times. Neither has had the impact one would have hoped for this season, but with the appointment of Paul Lambert there is still time for that to change. They will be responsible for stopping Mooy in his tracks and preventing the Australian from feeding Huddersfield’s trio of attacking midfielders.
It's always difficult to know how a new manager will set up his team for the first game of his tenure. Ryan Shawcross may return from injury, which could be a huge boost for Lambert, who spoke very highly of Stoke's longest-serving player in the Stoke Sentinel this week. Stoke have conceded a staggering 24 goals in the eight league games that Shawcross has missed this season, compared with 26 in the fifteen he has played in.
Moritz Bauer may be handed a home debut after starting on Monday. Stephen Ireland made his first appearance of the season at Old Trafford and may retain his place in the starting XI due to his attacking threat. Up front, Peter Crouch and Mame Biram Diouf will be vying for the role of lead striker.
Huddersfield are anxiously awaiting news on Chris Löwe and Colin Quaner, both of whom could return to the side after enforced absences. Löwe would replace Scott Malone at left-back, and Quaner might take up his usual role in attacking midfield. If Quaner is not passed fit, Alex Pritchard may get his first start in a Huddersfield shirt.
Possible Stoke Starting Lineup: Butland; Pieters, Shawcross, Zouma, Bauer; Fletcher, Allen, Ireland; Choupo-Moting, Diouf, Shaqiri
Possible Huddersfield Starting Lineup: Lössl; Löwe, Jørgensen, Schindler, Smith; Mooy, Hogg; Van La Parra, Ince, Quaner; Depoitre
It would be easy to call this one a draw and knock off for lunch, and that is tempting - both sides are in poor form, and they drew less than a month ago. But the introduction of a new manager is often a catalyst for an upward turn in fortunes. Every Stoke player will be out to impress Paul Lambert, after many of them seemed to stop playing for Mark Hughes. A lot will depend on whether or not Shawcross is fit to start.
Huddersfield will want to prove that they are not on the slide after conceding seven goals in their last two league games. Even now, most of the country expects them to slip into the relegation mire, but David Wagner's men have made a habit of proving the so-called experts wrong.
Stoke have only kept two clean sheets all season, and the last was in October. But they have enough attacking talent to overcome their defensive deficiencies and secure a valuable three points for the new boss.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Huddersfield