Stoke City will be aiming to collect a third consecutive Premier League victory when they make the short trip to West Bromwich Albion, but in order to do so will have to overcome their hoodoo against former boss Tony Pulis.
Since leaving the Potters in the summer of 2013, Pulis has won on each of the three occasions in which he has faced them, all by the goal to nil. A triumph by the same scoreline against struggling Newcastle United on Monday was a crucial one for his current side, who after a run of just one win in eight games moved six points above the relegation zone and gave them much-needed breathing space. Prior to that they had taken just eight points at home, so the result was important in more ways than one.
Pulis is still looking for one of his strikers to start finding the net on a regular basis, and with others having failed to deliver for various reasons he decided to turn to Victor Anichebe. Although he did not manage to score, the powerful Nigerian did prove to be a menace for the Newcastle defence and will surely have done enough to keep his place. Whether he will get the better of Ryan Shawcross and Philipp Wollscheid here, however, is a different matter altogether.
A truly spectacular and captivating win away to Everton on Monday was another occasion where Stoke showcased their considerable potential, and emphasised that they should have their sights set on qualifying for Europe rather than merely finishing in the top half as they have for the last two seasons. Their defence was uncharateristically pierced three times, but the manner in which they attacked was totally worthy of four goals and three points, while making a mockery of their status as one of the league’s lowest scoring teams.
The link-up play between the front three was at times breathtaking, with Bojan Krkic producing the incisive passes, Marko Arnautovic making his usual intelligent runs in behind and Xherdan Shaqiri supplying his first two finishes in English football, the second of them in delightful fashion. If he can remain fit and available, the Swiss international will surely be among the most exciting players to watch in the second half of the season, but West Brom will do their level best to shackle him here.
For West Brom, James McClean and Salomon Rondon complete three-match bans, while they are waiting on the fitness of defender Jonas Olsson.
The visitors have no new injury worries, but are still without Peter Crouch, Stephen Ireland and Marc Muniesa.