Hull City v Stoke preview
Hull City welcome Stoke City to the KC Stadium on Saturday desperate to arrest their dramatic slide down the Premier League table. Phil Brown's side were rubbing shoulders with the UEFA Champions League hopefuls after winning six of their opening nine games as they confounded the critics following their promotion via the Championship play-offs. But with just two further victories in their next 24 games, the Tigers have plunged down the table and now stand just three points above the relegation places. Their last victory on home soil was the 2-1 success against Middlesbrough way back on 6th December, a factor which must be addressed if they are to preserve their top-flight status for another season. Visitors Stoke, who were also tipped for an immediate return to the Championship after promotion last season, are currently eight points above the drop zone with just three games of the season remaining. But manager Tony Pulis is refusing to become complacent until the Potters are mathematically assured of their place among English football's elite for another campaign. Team newsBrown will have to select his side for one of their most crucial games of the season shorn of the services of captain Ian Ashbee. The midfielder ruptured his posterior cruciate ligament in the defeat by Aston Villa on Monday night and is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. On a more positive note, Craig Fagan and Bernard Mendy have returned to full training after their respective ankle and foot injuries which kept them out of the Villa clash and they could come into contention to face Stoke. Potters boss Pulis is sweating on the fitness of striker James Beattie and midfielder Liam Lawrence for the trip to the KC Stadium. Beattie, who has played a key role in the club's climb away from the relegation zone following his January switch from Sheffield United, has a thigh injury and Lawrence is hampered by a hip problem. Salif Diao, Danny Higginbotham, Mamady Sidibe and Amdy Faye remain on the sidelines for Stoke. Possible starting XIs:Hull City: Myhill, Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson, Garcia, Boateng, Marney, Kilbane, Geovanni, Cousin. Stoke City: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Pugh, Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Fuller, Beattie.
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