The Britannia Stadium is not known for seeing ‘sexy’ football at the best of times, but the visit of Sam Allardyce’s ‘lump it forward to Andy Carroll and let everyone else feed off the scraps’ West Ham United side to the home of Stoke City is definitely not one for the purists.
Both sides enjoy the long-ball tactic, which is perhaps understandable when you have the likes of Peter Crouch and Carroll at your disposal, but the spectacle is likely to be impacted as a result.
The Hammers will undoubtedly be suffering after Monday night’s defeat to Tottenham and may not recover in time to be able to put together a winning performance on Saturday afternoon.
West Ham are considered 13/5 outsiders in bwin’s 3Way market after a run of only one win in their last eight Premier League matches and another defeat will see them starting to look precariously over their shoulders.
An immediate return to the Championship would be disastrous for the Irons and with the business end of the season approaching, every game is crucial.
Given the fact that the side from Upton Park are missing key players such as injured skipper Kevin Nolan and come into this fixture on the back of a heart-breaking last-minute defeat to Tottenham (albeit after a wonder strike from the in-form Gareth Bale which two Jussi Jaaskelainens would not have been able to stop), Big Sam will probably settle for a point.
The draw can be backed at odds of 9/4 and will surely grab plenty of punters’ attention, particularly as neither side currently possesses the pizazz to unlock defences regularly, and a 0-0 is certainly not out of the question at an intriguing 25/4.
Having rambled on about West Ham going into Saturday’s clash with a lack of confidence, it would only be fair to also mention the Potters’ recent travails.
Last weekend, Stoke travelled to Craven Cottage to face an out-of-form Fulham side (only one win in six before kick-off) and boss Tony Pulis would have hoped, maybe even expected, his side to pick up the points.
However, a volley straight from the top drawer from Dimitar Berbatov gave Martin Jol’s side the lead just before the break and the Cottagers held on for a 1-0 win.
Of course, it could have all been so different though if Jon Walters had scored from the spot early in the second half, but the Irish striker proceeded to miss his third penalty of the season.
It is safe to say the former Ipswich man will not be on spot-kick duty if the Potters are awarded another penalty on Saturday, but the most worrying thing for Stoke fans is not another failure from 12 yards.
Of more concern is another game without troubling the scorers, which makes it three blanks out of their last five games – not a promising statistic for the 21/20 favourites.
In a game where I believe there will be few goals, I like the look of ‘yes’ at odds of 5/4 in the ‘Will any team win by exactly one goal difference?’ market.
And considering the Potters’ traditional strength at the Britannia – which is just as well, judging by their abysmal away record – they must be the preference to edge it.
The Hammers are even worse on the road, as shown by a paltry return of eight goals and eight points in 13 games, so Stoke to win by a single goal (draw in the 0-1 handicap market) looks great value at 13/5.
New customers registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing his on Pulis’ men to score one more than West Ham would return £72 if successful.
But whoever takes the spoils, one thing is for sure – this will be the final game shown on Match of the Day on Saturday evening and it probably won’t be worth staying awake for.