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Preview: Stoke City vs. Hull City

Sports Mole previews Hull's Premier League trip to Stoke City as the in-form Tigers look to continue their climb away from the relegation zone.

Hull City will travel to Stoke City on Saturday afternoon much more comfortable with their Premier League position than they were at the start of the month.

The Tigers have picked up seven points from a possible nine in three February matches, against a team challenging for the title and two of their relegation rivals.

This form has seen them climb to 15th in the table and four points clear of danger ahead of their trip to the Britannia Stadium, where they have never won a top-flight game.

January signing Dame N'Doye has proven the catalyst for this improvement, netting in both the wins over Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers.

Steve Bruce's deadline day spent in France securing a £3m deal for the unknown Senegalese striker is now looking to be a worthwhile piece of business.

Mohamed Diame had a similar impact upon his arrival at the KC Stadium, scoring four times in his first five games for the club before a knee injury stopped him in his tracks.

N'Doye's compatriot has not played since December 3, but is hopeful of making his return in the next couple of weeks to boost Hull's survival chances. James Chester and Robert Snodgrass remain long-term absentees.

Having chopped and changed throughout the campaign, Bruce now appears to have settled on a 3-5-2 formation and should see no reason to begin tinkering again now that his side are starting to find some rhythm.

An unchanged side would mean another start for Paul McShane ahead of club captain Curtis Davies at the back, and only places on the bench for Gaston Ramirez, Abel Hernandez, Sone Aluko and Andrew Robertson.

Stoke too could name the same lineup which started last weekend's come-from-behind 2-1 win over Aston Villa, where Victor Moses scored a last-ditch winner from the penalty spot after Mame Biram Diouf had earlier equalised.

Despite Geoff Cameron returning from suspension, Phil Bardsley should keep his place at right-back in an ever-changing defence which has been glued together by Bayer Leverkusen loanee Philipp Wollscheid in recent weeks.

Injuries to captain Ryan Shawcross, Marc Muniesa, Erik Pieters and Marc Wilson, the latter two of whom have now returned, has put extra pressure on the January signing and manager Mark Hughes feels that he has coped admirably.

The mid-table Potters are short of full strength further up the field as well, with Bojan and Peter Odemwingie still sidelined. Jonathan Walters is expected to be given the nod to lead the line, although Peter Crouch is waiting in the wings.

The two teams shared the spoils in August's 1-1 draw, in which Chester was sent off for Hull in the first half.

Stoke:

Form in Premier League: LWWDLW
Form in all competitions: WWDLLW

Possible starting lineup: Begovic; Bardsley, Wollschied, Wilson, Pieters; N'Zonzi, Whelan; Moses, Ireland, Diouf; Walters

Hull:

Form in Premier League: LLLDWW
Form in all competitions: LLLDWW

Possible starting lineup: McGregor; McShane, Bruce, Dawson; Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Brady; Jelavic, N'Doye

Sports Mole says: 1-1


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Tottenham Hotspur interim manager Tim Sherwood acknowledges his sides fans following the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on May 11, 2014
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17Blackburn RoversBlackburn411210195046446
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19Derby CountyDerby411110203046-1643
20Birmingham CityBirmingham411013182950-2143
21Coventry CityCoventry401012183654-1842
22Rotherham UnitedRotherham37106213851-1336
23Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds40119203449-1536
24Wycombe WanderersWycombe41810232961-3234

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