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Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City

Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between West Bromwich Albion and in-form Stoke City as Tony Pulis welcomes his former club to The Hawthorns.

Stoke City's past meets its future on Saturday afternoon as Mark Hughes takes his side to Tony Pulis's West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.

Hughes is building on the great work that his Welsh compatriot did during his seven years at the Britannia Stadium and currently has them eighth in the table.

A 2-0 win over Everton in their last outing on March 4 marked the first time this season that the Potters had managed to string together three successive top-flight wins.

The continuation of this form would likely see them surpass their previous best Premier League points total of 50 - achieved during their ninth-place finish of last term.

The best that Pulis could manage in his five seasons in charge of Stoke at the highest level was 47 points and 11th position, targets which may not be out of Albion's reach with 10 games remaining in the current campaign.

Although undoubtedly bruised by consecutive Midlands derby defeats to Aston Villa and their consequent FA Cup quarter-final elimination, the Baggies will be aiming high considering their improvement under Pulis.

Five clean sheets and only two defeats in nine league games since his appointment leave West Brom 13th in the standings and eight points clear of the drop zone, with their relegation worries now seemingly behind them.

They were only one point above water following their 2-0 loss to Stoke in December's reverse fixture, in which Mame Biram Diouf scored twice to bring to an end Alan Irvine's brief tenure at The Hawthorns.

That was Albion's fifth straight game without victory against the Potters, although they will take confidence from the fact that Pulis masterminded success over his former club while he was keeping Crystal Palace up last season.

Claudio Yacob's suspension will pave the way for Darren Fletcher to return in midfield, where there could also be a first start since February 11 for Callum McManaman should Chris Brunt be required at left-back.

Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye are both carrying knocks but will start up front due to Victor Anichebe's groin strain. Stephane Sessegnon is available again and will be on the bench alongside Boaz Myhill as Ben Foster returns in goal.

Stoke's injury concerns are at the other end of the pitch as Philipp Wollscheid limped off in the first half of their victory over the Toffees to join Marc Muniesa and Ryan Shawcross on their list of defensive fitness doubts.

Both the German and captain Shawcross, who has missed the club's last six matches, face late fitness tests, with Geoff Cameron on standby. Bojan, Stephen Ireland and ex-Baggie Peter Odemwingie definitely remain sidelined.

Hughes's main selection dilemma is whether to lead the line with Peter Crouch or Diouf, who scored off the bench last time out. The Senegalese could also be slotted in behind Crouch at the expense of Charlie Adam.

West Brom:

Form in Premier League: LDWDWL
Form in all competitions: WWDWLL

Possible starting lineup: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Brunt; Morrison, Fletcher, Gardner, McManaman; Berahino, Ideye

Stoke:

Form in Premier League: WDLWWW
Form in all competitions: DLLWWW

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

Sports Mole says: 1-0


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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Fulham20134349163343
2Bournemouth20126236162042
3West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom2097427161134
4Blackburn RoversBlackburn209653427733
5Coventry CityCoventry209652723433
6Queens Park RangersQPR199553124732
7Stoke CityStoke209472421331
8Huddersfield TownHuddersfield208482323028
9Swansea CitySwansea207672526-127
10Millwall206952021-127
11Blackpool207672022-227
12Middlesbrough207582323026
13Birmingham CityBirmingham207581921-226
14Luton TownLuton206772726125
15Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest206772423125
16Preston North EndPreston206772226-425
17Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd196582326-323
18Bristol City196582128-723
19Hull City2063111623-721
20Cardiff CityCardiff2063112134-1321
21Reading2082102632-620
22Peterborough UnitedPeterborough2044121738-2116
23Barnsley2026121331-1812
24Derby CountyDerby1941051618-21

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