West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Stoke City will make the short journey to the Hawthorns on Sunday for the early fixture against West Brom in the closest that either club will get to a league derby this season.
Tony Pulis will be looking to continue the Baggies perfect start to the campaign against his former employer, while Stoke’s Mark Hughes will be looking to build momentum following their victory over Arsenal last weekend.
Albion’s recent form against the Potters is impressive, winning four of the previous five encounters. Pulis himself has a personal record to uphold; during his time managing the two sides he has overseen the fixture almost twenty times, losing just twice.
Stoke will be hoping that new signing Jese will continue his goal-scoring start to his career at the bet365 stadium. Shaqiri may return from a hamstring injury which would displace former Albion striker Saido Berahino.
Berahino is likely to receive a frosty reception if he does feature, however the possible satisfaction of silencing the home crowd could give the striker extra motivation to score his first league goal in over a year.
Albion will be without captain Jonny Evans with a hamstring injury (and possibly due to his rumoured move to Manchester City) and Hal Robson-Kanu who had a three match suspension upheld by the FA earlier in the week. New signing Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig will be registered in time to be included in the matchday squad, however Pulis has already ruled out starting the Scottish winger with a spot on the bench likely.
The Baggies should stick with much the same side that beat Burnley last weekend in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The back four of Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi and Brunt is unlikely to change, with Ben Foster between the posts. New signing Gareth Barry will captain the side in the absence of Evans with youngster Sam Field (who will continue to fill in for Claudio Yacob if injured) and England’s Jake Livermore joining him in the middle.
James McClean could make way for Nacer Chadli, with Matt Phillips and Jay Rodriguez (who is still hunting for his first league goal at his new club) completing the side.
Stoke are likely to stick with their side which beat Arsenal last weekend in a 3-4-3 formation. Zouma, Shawcross and Cameron may play in front of Jack Butland. Former Albion skipper Darren Fletcher and Joe Allen should keep their places in the middle, with Diouf and Pieters providing width in wing back roles. Saido Berahino could start but would be replaced by Shaqiri if fit again, with Choupo-Moting and Jese completing the front three.
Expect a closely contested, full bloodied, old school battle (particularly if James McClean and Saido Berahino are on the pitch at the same time) which should provide plenty of entertainment and talking points.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 2 Stoke City 1
Written by George Bates.