West Ham United vs Stoke City
(Midfielders Mark Noble & Kevin Nolan are key to West Ham)
It should be noted that these are the two teams with the joint best clean sheet record in the league this year with 5 shutouts each in their 11 games & that's through a combination of tough physical defences & because of their style of football where the ball doesn't tend to be on the ground as much or similarly in play thanks to booming clearances & plenty of time taken over set pieces. Neither side like to lose either with just three losses a piece & Stoke's have come against Chelsea, Man Utd & in-form Norwich so there's no shame there although their lack of goal threat means they have to settle for draws too often & have only one win on the board. Peter Crouch looks like Stoke's only real goal threat with little support from midfield & even though we like Jon Walters build up play he never looks like getting 10+ league goals a year.
West Ham certainly do have a goal threat from midfield & it comes chiefly from their vocal captain Kevin Nolan who ranks right up there as one of the most effective & consistent English players for the last decade & we can understand his frustration with never being picked for the national side. Mark Noble is another of their midfielders with an eye for goal & he has also recently been hinting he'd like an England call up, if Noble & Nolan really want to push their claims they need to be the ones to make a difference in tight games like this especially as the West Ham forwards have failed to fire so far. Andy Carroll hasn't managed a goal yet even though he's at just about the best club possible to exploit his attributes although he's had an injury & to be fair his all round play has definitely been beneficial especially his partnership with good mate Kevin Nolan.
(Ryan Shawcross recently got a deserved England cap but he's not everyone's cup of tea...)
When you take a look at the players each team has in defence they really are just physical powerhouses, Ryan Shawcross had 180 more clearances in the league than any other player last year & James Collins ranked 2nd in the same category for Villa last year & has now come into the Hammers side with great success. This isn't likely to be a pretty game by any means but West Ham have a great incentive to go all out for the win here as they have a tough run of fixtures after this up to Christmas so they need to get points on the board, they should have faith in their defence to cope with Peter Crouch much more easily than some teams & we like their chances. Big Sam will send his team out for the win & West Ham are just about value at a price of Evens with 5 victories from 11 already & taking them to win 2-0 at 19/2 also looks worth a little play as we think they'll keep the low scoring Potters at bay.
West Ham United to beat Stoke City at Evens (General)
West Ham to win 2-0 at 19/2 (BetVictor)