After seeing their cushion over the bottom three cut to five points, Bournemouth will be hoping to pick up their fourth home league win of the season when they come up against out-of-form Stoke City.
Despite having their fair share of possession and having more than enough attempts on goal, Bournemouth were made to pay for lacking that little bit of quality in their last match as two goals in as many minutes saw them lose to title chasing Arsenal. A couple of poor pieces of defending cost them overall, but it was their decision making in the final third which left plenty to be desired, with Matt Ritchie the main culprit as he sent a number of shots off target.
The Cherries might sense an opportunity to collect three vital points here as Stoke have leaked goals of late and look low on inspiration and confidence, so Benik Afobe may continue his good start to life in the Premier League. But they must also be wary, as the visitors are very capable of exploiting the gaps left by full-backs committing themselves too far forward, so Simon Francis and Charlie Daniels must choose the right moments to come up and support the attack.
While it was undoubtedly a major setback, it seems overly simplistic to cite the loss of Ryan Shawcross to injury as the sole reason for Stoke’s considerable recent dip in performance levels and results – not to mention an easy excuse. Their squad is as strong as ever, but at present they are lacking the intensity needed to compete with the opposition, while their play going forward over the last few weeks has been strangely unimaginative and as a result scoring chances have been at a premium.
The manner in which they lost at home to Everton last weekend was downright worrying and will surely have left manager Mark Hughes with plenty to think about. Recent recalls to the starting XI for strikers Peter Crouch and Mame Biram Diouf show that he is trying several combinations but to no avail, so he may now have to rely on his players to get their act together, because displays such as the one against Everton are not what anybody is accustomed to seeing from the Potters.
The home side have no new injury concerns, and are boosted by the return to training of long-term absentee Max Gradel.
This game comes too soon for Shawcross, but Stoke should have Jonathan Walters back after he missed the Everton game with a virus.
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