Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Hull City, Britannia Stadium, Stoke on Trent, England, Saturday 3 April 2010.
The Tigers travel up the River Trent to Stoke, to take on Tony Pulis' Potters. The Tigers recent form has taken a turn for the better after "Football Management Consultant" Iain Dowie stepped into Phil Brown's shoes at Hull City's KC Stadium.
After Brown had seen his Tigers side lose five on the bounce, Dowie has a one-in-two success rate after losing in the last five minutes away to Portsmouth in his first outing and a fantastic two-nil victory over Fulham despite having to patch together a severely depleted defence.
Pulis will be hoping that his side do not suffer the same methodical dissection that the Tigers provided at the KC Stadium in Novermber. On that day, the Tigers beat the Potters 2-1 with goals from ex-Stoke City midfielder Sey Olofinjana, and Dutchman Jan Vanegoor of Hessellink, who countered after Stoke City had taken the lead against the run of play.
The Potters had capitalised on an error from Hull City defender Bernard Mendy, who missed a header that allowed the swift footed Matthew Etherington to gain possession and score past Matt Duke in the Hull City goal, and a Hull City defence that had been impervious up to that point.
The Potters are sitting in 11th position and a win will possibly see them move up into the top half of the table, guaranteeing safety from relegation for another season.
However, for the Tigers, three points are vital for Premier League survival as it would see them leapfrog relegation rivals West Ham into 17th place.
Dowie will still have to mix and match to field his strongest team as club captain Ian Ashbee, and Amr Zaki, are suffering from knee injuries. Central defenders Kamil Zayatte is out with a knee injury, Liam Cooper has a broken nose, Anthony Gardner has an ankle problem, and Ibrahima Sonko is ineligible under loan rules.
However, Dowie will be pleased to see the return of defender Andy Dawson, but will be hoping that Hull City's top goal scorer Stephen Hunt will pass a late fitness test on his niggling foot injury.
Pulis has problems of his own with James Beattie out with a long standing knee problem, and Salif Diao suffering from a calf knock. There are doubts for the Potters captain Abdoulaye Faye and Dave Kitson, who both have knee injuries, Ryan Shawcross has an ankle injury, but all three will undergo late fitness tests before the tie.
For the Tigers, the fixture is an important test of the team's newfound confidence. After a couple of more combative displays, Dowie will be hoping that the club's very good home form can be translated to the road.
However, the Stoke City boss, Pulis, will be trying to tame the Tigers and push his team into contention for a Europa League place by the end of the season.
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