Stoke City-West Ham United Preview
It's crunch time for Stoke City as Paul Lambert's club has only five matches left in the season to pull off a last-minute escape job and avoid heading to the Championship next season.
The Potters (6-9-18) currently sit in 19th place on 27 points, six points from safety heading into Monday's pivotal clash against West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium.
Wins have been hard to come by for Stoke City - and they'll desperately need some if they're to stay up. The club has only won six Premier League matches this season and are currently riding a nine-match winless slide (0-4-5) since a 2-0 result over Huddersfield Town back in January.
Last time out, Lambert's bunch fought valiantly but suffered a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham thanks to second-half goals from Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
Despite the loss, Lambert has emphasised the need for his club to take all three points Monday night if they are to secure Premier League football next season.
"We have to come away with something and the intent is to go and win. We will do everything we can to get the three points," the manager said. "If we keep playing the same way we have in the last few games then we certainly have a great chance of winning the game. We know a win on Monday would drag a few more teams into the equation towards the bottom and that's what we have got to do."
West Ham could turn out to be just the tonic that Stoke City need to stop the rot. The Potters have lost only one of their last nine Premier League matches against West Ham, although that defeat came in December's meeting. They are unbeaten in their last five Premier League away matches against the Hammers.
West Ham (8-10-14) are in a bit better situation heading into Monday's match as David Moyes' boys are sitting in 15th place on 34 points. They are six points clear of the bottom three, but will need to continue to get positive results in order to avoid sliding into the relegation scrap over the final few weeks.
Last time out, the Hammers earned a point in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as Javier Hernandez netted a 73rd-minute equaliser to stun the home crowd and give the visitors an important point.
The Irons are unbeaten in their last two matches, and Moyes has urged his charges to finish strong.
"To get to 40 points is the biggest thing we need to do. I wouldn't say it would guarantee safety, as there are years when it hasn't, but in the main 40 points normally keeps you up," Moyes said. "I'm keeping my target high and I'm hoping to win 10 games. At the moment, we've won eight games in the Premier League, so if we can win 10, we'd just about get our points tally up there.
"It's a big game against Stoke and a big game for them as well. It's a similar game to the Southampton game because of what it means to both clubs but, if we can put in a big performance, and the crowd give us the same levels they gave us in that game, then we'll give ourselves every chance of winning the game. If we can beat Stoke, we give ourselves a chance of finishing the season in a good position."
If the Hammers are to take three points, former Stoke man Marko Arnautovic is likely to be involved. Arnautovic has been directly involved in 13 Premier League goals this season, with nine goals and four assists. That is at least five more than any of his West Ham teammates, while one of his goals came in the reverse fixture against his former club.
The Potters won the reverse fixture, 3-0, back in December at Bet365.com Stadium thanks to a brace from Arnautovic and a third tally by Diafra Sakho.
Updated April 14, 2018