Tom Griffin / @TomGriff87
Hull City entertain Stoke City at the KCOM stadium in a match with contrasting importance at both ends of the table. The hosts arrive into this one in the midst of a mid-table melee, whilst the visitors are battling tirelessly in the relegation zone and were most recently handed back-to-back defeats by Cardiff and Blackburn.
If last weekend was anything to go by, a 3-1 defeat to relegation threatened Barnsley reconfirmed the unpredictably of the Championship and why neutrals feast their eyes upon a league that serves up unforeseeable outcomes.
Barnsley’s onslaught of City’s backline reaped a lack of answers on a rare lacklustre display defensively, and in front of goal with the Tykes recording their first win since their opening day victory against Fulham.
Much like Hull’s previous opposition, Stoke City find themselves in a similar predicament in the lower crevices of the league table. A run of 2 wins in their last 6 and back-to-back defeats sees the Potters languishing in a meagre 23rd place, three points adrift of 21st position Luton Town.
The home side, however, sit comfortably in 12th position with five points separating them from the play offs. An uncertain start under McCann’s tenure was quickly forgotten about when City put together a healthy run of victories against Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Fulham to remain within close contention.
Last weekend’s defeat hasn’t curtailed City’s position in the Championship form guide though, they sit in an impressive seventh position with McCann’s attacking style seemingly in full swing.
Whilst City boast a run of form that is irreconcilable to their visitors, it is categorically proven that after previous Championship results, form is never the deciding factor in these fixtures especially against teams in a relegation dog fight.
Contrast in attacking fortunes
Free flowing attacking play has benefitted Hull in heavy abundance so far this season, they have netted an impressive 12 times in their last 6 matches with star man Jarrod Bowen notching half of that tally. Stoke, however, have suffered from an inability to find the target regularly, their 20 Championship goals has them just scathing relegation in the goal scoring charts, a feat I’m sure they would be relieved to see come May.
Hull have kept two clean sheets in their last three home matches, whilst the Potters have only managed the same number on the entirety of their travels. Though the hosts perform statistically worse against teams in the bottom half – 14 points have been taken against teams in the top half, as oppose to 12 against teams at the lower end.
Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki have taken the plaudits and rightly so this season, the explosive pair have netted 17 of Hull’s 30 Championship goals. Whilst the Pole’s form has dropped off in recent matches, the pair were directly involved in Hull’s home rout against Preston North End – Bowen scored two and assisted the third for Grosicki.
Hull’s dynamic duo have been directly involved in more goals than the entire Potters side with former midfielder Sam Clucas heading their goal scoring charts with 5.
Interestingly, Hull have scored 13 goals in the final third of matches, whereas Stoke have conceded 14 goals in the same period. A goal infested second half anyone?
Hull are without Kevin Stewart who suffered a foot injury which saw him miss the trip to Barnsley, Josh Magennis is also side lined with a torn hamstring but is expected to make a return before the hectic Christmas schedule.
Jon Toral is recovering from his latest knee injury after undergoing surgery in Barcelona last month, whilst Norbert Balogh has suffered an injury set back after looking as though his return to training was imminent.
With the Tigers short on midfield options, McCann could turn to the options presented to him in the Under 23’s. Elliott Bonds heads the list of likely candidates after already featuring in the match day squad against Wigan Athletic.
The Potters only have the injured Peter Etebo missing with a muscle injury so Michael O’Neill has plenty to consider ahead of this clash, so far he has chosen to utilise the 4-3-3 system with Sam Vokes preferred to spearhead the attack.
Predicted line ups
Hull: Long, Lichaj, Burke, De Wijs, Elder, Da Silva, Honeyman, Irvine, Bowler, Grosicki, Bowen
Stoke: Butland, Carter-Vickers, Batth, Martins Indi, Ward, Woods, Allen, Clucas, Ince, Mclean, Vokes