EPL Preview: Hull City Vs Portsmouth, Kingston Communications Stadium, Kingston Upon Hull, April 4th 2009, 15:00 BST.
This afternoon Portsmouth travel to the KC Stadium for the first time and at a crucial time in the season for both clubs. Hull City sits in 13th place in the Premiership, four points above the relegation places with Portsmouth two places below in 15th place, one point behind, but with a slightly superior goal difference.
These two clubs have not met since facing off at Fratton Park in November where they shared the spoils in a thrilling 2-2 score-draw. Pompey's England internationals, Peter Crouch and Glen Johnson, scored for the home side, and Michael Turner scored for the Tigers before Dean Windass came on as a late Hull City substitute to score a 89th minute equaliser off Noe Pamarot's head.
Since that match a few things have changed for both clubs. Hull City's form has plummeted with only one win for the East Yorkshire outfit since early December when they beat Fulham with a last minute winner from on loan Manchester United Striker Manucho.
Portsmouth have also had their share of troubles since November. At that time Portsmouth were sitting comfortably in eighth place and former manager Tony Adams' short Portsmouth tenure was still in it's honeymoon period. The South Coasts only Premier League team managed to only gain ten points before his ultimate demise as Portsmouth's head in early February 2009.
Since then Paul Hart has held the reigns of the historic club as their caretaker manager. Hart has managed to make inroads in turning around the fortunes of the club. His period in charge has seen Pompey gain two wins, two draws and a loss—all to the tune of eight points.
Hart will be gratified to find that all but one of his players on international duty came back unscathed. The missing player, likely to be Armand Traore sustained a thigh injury playing for the French under 21 side against England.
Hart will also be pleased that England's Peter Crouch managed to work off a knock to play and score in the lacklustre 2-1 win against Ukraine alongside fellow Portsmouth players David James and Glen Johnson.
Added to this is the return of winger Jemaine Pennent who has been suffering from a calf muscle injury. Pennent who was linked with a move to Hull City during the January transfer window may make his first start since going off in the recent 1-1 draw with Middlesborough.
The East Yorkshire club are suffering more on the injury front. The Tigers will be without their Gabonese striker Daniel Cousin who is suffering with a troublesome back injury.
Hull City boss Phil Brown will be hoping that influential skipper Ian Ashbee will be able to return to action after sitting out the FA Cup quarterfinal against Arsenal and the 1-0 loss to Wigan.
Hull City's Welsh international defender Sam Ricketts, who limped out of the game against Germany mid week will also be able to take his place in the Hull City starting lineup.
The Tiger's boss will also be buoyed by the return of Kamil Zayette, Andy Dawson and Michael Turner who have all been suffering from niggling injuries. However, Anthony Gardner (back), Jimmy Bullard (knee) and George Boateng (knee) will not be fit for action.
Brown has been playing up the importance of the remaining game for the Tigers this week. He told the Hull Daily Mail this week that, "We're going into tomorrow knowing full well that if we win three of our last eight games we will be okay. We want to win those three games as soon as possible as the pressure then begins to mount on those around you instead."
"If we win tomorrow then it takes a lot of pressure off us and puts it all back on Portsmouth and the other teams fighting with us."
"If someone had given me this position where seven teams are worse off than ourselves at this stage of the season, of course we would have accepted it. But we have to make the most of it now."
Phil Brown has also been emphasizing the importance of experience at this end of the table. He stressed that he served under Sam Alladyce whilst at Bolton Wanderers and helped to save them from relegation twice.
He went on to say, "Keeping your composure is the important part."
"The pressure gets cranked up by everybody—the media attention, the focus from your fans—the players will feel it, no doubt about it."
"But a lot of it comes from the manager and the staff and I've got a lot of experience behind me, coupled with my own experiences of the Premier League in these situations."
Will Brown have the experience to help the Tigers overcome a Pompey team that have had a mini revival under the stewardship of Paul Hart?