WBA MAD Preview: Albion vs Stoke
Joseph Chapman looks forward to Stoke's visit to The Hawthorns
It was quite something to behold for any fan of West Brom if you attended the Britannia Stadium on 21 January 2012. I don't think I've ever been in the middle of such frenzied celebrations quite like those that were played out on that gusty afternoon in Stoke, and I doubt I ever will be – although a certain Carlos Vela strike against a certain team in old gold came close!
The reason for the chaotic euphoria, of course, was because everyone knows Stoke are our ultimate bogey team, even they do – and they love it. I must admit, as Cameron Jerome equalised late on in that particular match, and as three quarters of the ground began to sing "we always beat West Brom", I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see my beloved Baggies beat the Potters. But all was not lost, as Graham Dorrans curled home a stoppage time free kick and we were left to savour a memorable victory.
If that was dreamland, it's back to reality this weekend. Albion are expected to bounce back following a pretty straightforward defeat on Wednesday to Swansea. The football on show from the Welsh side was quite brilliant in the first half – ripping open the Albion defence a number of times with their slick passing and quick movement. Steve Clarke will want a response.
Stoke are in a purple patch of their own, moving into the top half of the table with a 2-1 win over Newcastle midweek, even if it was a bit last minute. Home victories over QPR and Fulham have come previously for the Staffordshire club. Notorious for their strength, endeavour and aerial ability, I don't think the Baggies could have played two more contrasting games, in terms of style, back to back in this last week.
Albion can welcome back duo Shane Long and Zoltan Gera for The Hawthorns encounter. Long was rested on Wednesday, allowing Romelu Lukaku 90 minutes, but the Irishman is expected to return to the starting line-up. Gera took a slight knock in the victory over Sunderland, but should be available. Ben Foster remains out but Steven Reid is fit, although Billy Jones should continue to start.
Stoke will travel without Peter Crouch, who faces dental surgery following the loss of three teeth in a clash with Fabricio Coloccini on Wednesday. Kenywne Jones is a likely candidate to replace him. Andy Wilkinson and a certain Michael Owen may be available for selection, however. Marc Wilson remains a long term absentee with a broken leg.
- Stoke have lost just twice in the last 29 meetings between the two clubs, although one was the aforementioned match in January.
- Stoke are yet to win away this season, though, and Albion have a record of 6-0-1 at The Hawthorns, losing only to champions Manchester City.
- The Potters have kept three clean sheets in their last six, and have six all season, the joint highest in the league.
- Albion have won 4 of their last 5, while Stoke have won 3 of their last 4, so two teams in form are set to meet in the Black Country.
I think the idea of Long and Gera returning to the starting XI might tip this towards the Baggies. It will be interesting to see if Tony Pulis decides to throw in Cameron Jerome, after hitting the winner against Newcastle. This is a big match, as the Southampton game was a few weeks back, in terms of testing our 'bounce-back-ability'.
Match score: 2-1
How do you think Albion will do tomorrow? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.
Source: WBA MAD
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