Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United entertain Tony Pulis’ Stoke City this evening and many will anticipate 90 minutes with more balls in the air than a malfunctioning lottery machine.
Both of these teams have been painted with the ‘direct football’ tag, but this punter believes that assessment is slightly unfair.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s behemoths all over the pitch and there will be set pieces aplenty, but actually take the time to sit down and watch these teams and you might just see some football break out. Stoke don’t even score from throw-ins anymore.
The Hammers have made a very good start to their first season back in the top flight, currently sitting in seventh place after an impressive win at Newcastle last weekend.
The key to their success could be Allardyce’s summer signings. The former Bolton and Blackburn manager brought in the likes of Mohamed Diame, Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll after securing promotion via the play-offs.
Getting Carroll on loan from Liverpool was seen as a major coup for Allardyce and though the 6ft 3in striker is yet to score for the London side, his good friend Kevin Nolan is certainly benefiting from his hold-up play, having scored five goals this season. He is 19/10 with bwin to do so again in this one.
West Ham have won three of their six home league games and lost only one, which was against a then in-form Arsenal. They can also boast seven wins in the 12 meetings between the sides since 2003.
The next four games for the Hammers are against Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, so realistically they need to get the three points here if they are to maintain their place in the top half up to the busy Christmas period, and you can back them to do just that at 19/20.
It must be noted that while they have won three at home, West Ham have also drawn two, and the visitors on Monday have experienced six stalemates in their 11 games this season.
Earlier this campaign, this punter correctly predicted that Stoke would draw with Sunderland, but given the statistics, it was not a difficult one to call.
The Potters have struggled for goals in the Premier League in 2012/13, scoring only nine, which is less than two of the teams in the bottom three.
However, they remain solid at the back with Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross, and have the joint best defensive record in the top flight along with Manchester City, having let in only ten.
It must also be considered that four of those came at Old Trafford, while West Ham themselves have only conceded 11.
The battle between Huth, Shawcross and Carroll will no doubt be fascinating, but the Stoke defenders will fancy their chances of minimising the influence of the ‘new divine ponytail’ (one-man crusade here to make that nickname stick).
Stoke’s tendency to draw and West Ham’s 50-50 home form suggests that a draw in this one is very possible and this option is awfully tempting at 23/10.
However, Pulis’ men will believe there is a chance for them to get at West Ham as they are arguably the only team who can match them for strength.
Although Carroll is at one end, Stoke have their own target man in Peter Crouch and with the crossing abilities of Charlie Adam and Matthew Etherington, set pieces could well be fruitful for Stoke, who can be found at a price of 29/10 to win.
Their defensive record will give them confidence and if they are going to win it will probably be 1-0, but the overwhelming feeling I have about this one is that it will be either a narrow home win or a stalemate, and at 23/10, my couple of quid is being thrown on a draw.