STOKE CITY’S excellent record against West Bromwich Albion is likely to face its sternest test on Saturday ... as Tony Pulis’ men face the Premier League’s surprise package at the Hawthorns.
While City have come away with all three points in four of their last five visits to their Midlands rivals, they will be as hard-pressed as ever to achieve a similar result against Steve Clarke’s high-flyers.
The Scot has overseen some remarkable early season form that has seen them rise to fourth in Premier League, despite last weekend’s setback against Swansea City.
That 3-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium came after four consecutive wins, the pinnacle of the best start to a season for 59 years for the West Midlanders.
City will be hoping to continue the form that has seen them win three of their last four matches – a set of results that sees them currently sitting in the top-ten of the Premier League.
West Bromwich Albion Fact-File
Full name: West Bromwich Albion Football Club
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Chairman: Jeremy Peace
Manager: Steve Clarke
2011/12: Premier League (10th), FA Cup (Fourth Round), League Cup (Third Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £4.7m for Borja Valero to RCD Mallorca, August 2008
Record transfer fee received: £8.5m for Curtis Davies from Aston Villa, July 2008
Introducing the Gaffer
Doubts are almost always cast when a respected number two becomes a full-time manager… but Steve Clarke has more than proved himself since taking the plunge at West Brom in the summer.
A successful career as assistant boss at a series of top flight clubs gave him his reputation, but Clarke put all of that on the line when he became the main man at the Hawthorns after Roy Hodgson’s departure.
Going it alone was a brave move for the 49-year-old– but so far it looks an inspired appointment by Jeremy Peace as his side occupy the heady heights of fourth place in the Premier League.
Not even Clarke would have expected such a rise in the first third of the campaign, but he’s keen to keep expectations down in his first season as a permanent boss.
As a player, the Scot represented two clubs – he played 200 times for St Mirren before switching to Chelsea in 1987, spending the rest of his career at Stamford Bridge.
It was there where he had his most notable period as an assistant, helping and advising Jose Mourinho through one of the most glittering periods in the club’s history.
He also had spells at Newcastle United, West Ham United and Liverpool.
West Ham United v Chelsea (12:45)
Arsenal v Swansea
Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool v Southampton
Manchester City v Everton
Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa
WEST BROMWICH ALBION v STOKE CITY
Reading v Manchester United (17:30)
Norwich City v Sunderland (Sunday, 16:00)
Newcastle United v Wigan Athletic (Monday, 20:00)
All fixtures set to take place at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
Head to Head
League: 56 Stoke City wins; 39 West Bromwich Albion wins; 31 draws
FA Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 3 West Bromwich Albion wins; 2 draws
TOTAL: 56 Stoke City wins; 42 West Bromwich Albion wins; 33 draws
Last Five Encounters
Stoke City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League) – 21/01/2012
West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 28/08/2011
Stoke City 1-1 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League) – 28/02/2011
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Stoke City (Premier League) – 20/11/2010
West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Stoke City (Premier League) – 04/04/2009
Stoke City win 11/4; West Bromwich Albion win 11/10; draw 9/4
Referee – Kevin Friend
Leicestershire referee Kevin Friend has been kept on his toes this season… with half of the games he’s officiated finishing with five goals or more.
The most notable of those was Arsenal’s remarkable 7-5 League Cup win over Reading, while he also refereed their 6-1 thrashing of Southampton in the Premier League back in September.
He was in charge for Stoke City’s opening game of the campaign against Reading, in which he sent-off Potters midfielder Dean Whitehead after two bookable offences.
His most recent match was a fortnight ago when he oversaw Liverpool’s comfortable 3-0 triumph over Wigan Athletic at Anfield.
His last outing at the Hawthorns came over two years ago in the Baggies’ 2-1 top flight win against Fulham. This season he refereed 12 games, serving up 45 yellow cards and 2 red cards.