Stoke v West Brom - Saturday 15:00
Stoke have lost four on the bounce in the Premier League and are yet to hold a lead at any point during a game this season. Having conceded four goals in three of their last four matches Mark Hughes is already under pressure and his club is just one defeat away from crisis territory. Stoke used to be a rugged, physical outfit and for all the plaudits Hughes has received for making them more aesthetically pleasing over the last few years, they now have a different identity as a team and are more brittle for it. There is a carelessness that has set in at the back, especially at set pieces and the defeat to Palace last weekend could have been even worse than the 4-1 suggested.
Marko Arnautovic’s late consolation epitomised how Stoke rely on him for attacking impetus, particularly with Shaqiri injured. Yet the Austrian isn’t prolific and if Wilfried Bony fails to recapture his Swansea form they look like strong relegation candidates.
West Brom recorded an unexpected victory over West Ham last time out, made all the more remarkable for the four goal lead they held after an hour as we’re used to seeing the Baggies involved in low-scoring encounters. Stoke fans may eye the manager in the opposition dugout with longing eyes, yearning for the compact defence Tony Pulis is renowned for. The former Stoke and Palace manager has faced his old employers on six occasions now and remains unbeaten, winning five of these games. His side clearly go into this game in much better form and as a result we’re backing West Brom to win at 3.3.