Monday night sees a clash between two Premier League stalwarts of the 2010s who were relegated together in 2018. The similarities end there, however, as both clubs are experiencing very different seasons and could feasibly be two divisions apart by May.
Stoke teeter just above the dropzone following a torrid season, while West Brom remain the Championship pacesetters as we move beyond the halfway stage, although they have begun to wobble in recent weeks.
The Baggies are without a league win in their last five games – since mid-December to be exact – and remain top thanks to Leeds’ recent ineptitude more than anything else. Having said that, they still enjoy a healthy buffer over third-placed Brentford and look a safe bet to make their return to the Premier League.
They could do with ending their five-game winless run at home to Stoke on Monday though, especially after Leeds dropped points again on Saturday afternoon. Monday night now represents a golden opportunity to extend their lead at the top.
Stoke’s form, meanwhile, has been a bit all over the place and their last six league games have resulted in two wins, two draws and two defeats.
West Brom ran out convincing winners when the sides met earlier in the season and should do so again with home advantage.
West Brom’s poor recent form has seen goals dry up somewhat and there have been no regular goalscorers during their mini-rut in what is arguably a cause and effect relationship.
Charlie Austin, who was in a rich vain of form before Christmas, has failed to score during the winless run and will be itching to get back on the scoresheet on Monday. Austin found the net six times in six games before Christmas, but hasn’t been a regular starter since.
Hal Robson-Kanu and Kenneth Zohore, Austin’s main competition, have hardly been in prolific form in his absence, scoring just one goal apiece in that five-game spell, albeit both scored in the Baggie’s most recent draw with Charlton last weekend. Zohore also bagged in an FA Cup win over the same opponents.
However, Austin has also proved himself to be just as potent off the bench with five of the six goals scored in the aforementioned spell coming after he was brought on as a substitute. He is Albion’s top scorer this season and boasts by far the best minutes per goal ratio of any of their players. He is a good bet to get back amongst the goals on Monday, be it from the bench or as a starter.
West Brom have been uncharacteristically porous at the back this season and their defensive record is the joint worst in the top six. For a team that built up a reputation of being miserly to only keep five clean sheets in 27 league games is difficult to contemplate.
Stoke, on the other hand, can attribute their precarious league position to a calamitous defensive record. After all, there are very few relegation-threatened teams in any division that can point to a defensive record to be proud of.
Even Stoke’s two wins over the festive period were accompanied by the concession of two goals. They were able to shore up their rearguard in a goalless draw with the ten men of Millwall last weekend, but are still liable to concede a flurry of goals on any given day.
The two less than impressive defences should make for a high-scoring game.