EPL 2015 Week 7: Spurs vs ManC; LFC vs Villa; Man U vs SUN; ARS vs LEI & CHL vs NUFC
Tottenham Hotspur Lock Horns With Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Alli, Dier, Lamela, Son, Chadli, Kane.
Man City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Navas, Aguero.
Perhaps a visit to White Hart Lane will provide the ideal opportunity for Manchester City to bounce back from their first Premier League loss of the season.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side hope that is the case Saturday as they try to continue their recent dominance over Tottenham Hotspur.
City (5-0-1) held an 11-0 goal-advantage over their first five league contests before Victor Moses scored in the sixth minute of West Ham United’s 2-1 victory at the Etihad last Saturday.
“We never believed we had won the title after just five games – we just always focus on the next game,” Pellegrini told the team’s official website. “It is always difficult to play against any Premier League team – everyone has very good players.”
The result snapped an 11-game league winning streak for the Citizens, who outscored their opponents 29-4 during that impressive undefeated run.
“We must be more concentrated,” said Pellegrini, whose club remains atop the league table by two points over city rival United.
Manchester City had little trouble concentrating Tuesday when they rebounded to rout Sunderland 4-1 in League Cup action. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring in that match with a successful penalty kick.
After recording a league-high 26 goals in 2014-15, the talented striker has just one in top-flight action this season. Aguero, though, has scored half of the 16 City’s totaled while winning four straight against Spurs (2-3-1), including the lone tally in last season’s 1-0 victory at The Lane.
Manchester City have won eight of the last nine meetings in the series with their only defeat during that run, 3-1 at Tottenham on April 21, 2013.
City have yet to allow a goal in their first three Premier League road matches this season. They’ve yielded two during a five-match league road winning streak overall.
Spurs have posted two straight 1-0 league victories over Crystal Palace and Sunderland, and are undefeated in five matches since opening with a 1-0 loss at Manchester United. However, mentally, they need to regroup after being eliminated from League Cup play with a 2-1 North London Derby loss to Arsenal on Wednesday.
“The result is most important, so we’re all disappointed,” manager Mauricio Pochettino told Spurs’ official website. “Now we prepare for City. … We have to be strong.”
Tottenham won a season-high three straight Premier League matches twice in 2014-15.
“We didn’t have a really good start to (this) season but we’re coming on now and have some real good confidence,” Spurs midfielder Thomas Carroll said.
Harry Kane remains confident while still searching for his first goal of the league season. The Premier League’s reigning breakout star, Kane scored 21 last season but has two in his last 14 league matches and none while putting four of his 21 shots on target so far this campaign. He’s never scored against City.
While Spurs know Kane will be on the pitch this weekend, Pellegrini is unsure if captain Vincent Kompany or David Silva will be able to play in this contest. Calf injuries have kept the duo out of City’s last two matches over all competition.
“We will see from now to Saturday which players can recover,” Pellegrini said.
Liverpool To Face Aston Villa
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Lucas, Milner, Coutinho, Ibe, Sturridge, Ings.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Richards, Clark, Amavi, Westwood, Grealish, Veretout, Ayew, Sinclair, Gestede
Two sides who have both made stuttering starts to the season meet Saturday when Liverpool entertain Aston Villa at Anfield.
The Reds (2-2-2) opened the season with back-to-back league victories but have since taken just two points from four matches. Liverpool are down in 13th place and the pressure is building on under-fire manage Brendan Rodgers.
The Merseysiders were held to a disappointing 1-1 home draw by promoted Norwich City last weekend.
Summer signing Danny Ings came off the bench to score his first Liverpool goal early in the second half before the Canaries drew level on the hour mark through Russell Martin following a mistake by Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
One piece of good news for the Anfield crowd was the re-appearance of striker Daniel Sturridge, who made his first Premier League start in nearly six months following a series of injury setbacks. England international Sturridge understandably looked rusty and mustered one shot on target before being substituted after 63 minutes.
Liverpool were involved in midweek League Cup action and squeezed past fourth-tier side Carlisle United 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra-time in a third-round match at Anfield on Wednesday.
Ings gave the Reds the lead on 23 minutes, but Derek Asama equalised 10 minutes later. Liverpool dominated possession but couldn’t find a winner against their League Two opponents, and the match went to penalties.
Goalkeeper Adam Bogdan was Liverpool’s hero as he saved three penalties in the shootout in his debut for the club.
Martin Skrtel was full of praise for teammate Bogdan after the match.
“Adam was good. It was his first game, his first game at Anfield, and he’s been doing well,” Skrtel told the Liverpool website. “Obviously we expected it to be a different game, but as we know there is no easy game here in England.
“But the main thing is we went through to the next round and we’re happy about that. When the teams from the lower leagues come to Anfield, they come here with nothing to lose so they just try to defend well and score from a counter attack.”
Villa (1-1-4) started their campaign with a victory but have since lost four of five league matches and picked up just one point in that spell. They are in 17th place, two points above bottom-club Sunderland.
The Villans lost 1-0 at home against West Bromwich Albion last weekend in the West Midlands derby, as Baggies striker Saido Berahino netted the only goal.
Tim Sherwood’s side received a confidence booster with a 1-0 League Cup victory over local archrivals Birmingham City at Villa Park on Tuesday. Benin striker Rudy Gestede headed the only goal of the game on 63 minutes against Championship side Birmingham.
Villa boss Sherwood buoyed by his side’s cup victory.
“I was delighted to send these great fans home extra happy,” Sherwood told his club’s website. “I know the fans were disappointed after Saturday but so were me and the players.
“We wanted to put it right for the fans. They stuck with us throughout the game. They have the bragging rights now.”
Liverpool will be without lead striker Christian Benteke, who has been ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring problem, while Dejan Lovren and Roberto Firmino both picked up injuries in midweek. Skipper Jordan Henderson remains sidelined with ankle trouble.
Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Both teams won away last season, with the Reds winning 2-0 at Villa Park in January. Fabio Borini opened the scoring on 24 minutes and Rickie Lambert made the points safe 11 minutes from time. Villa won 1-0 at Anfield in September on Agbonlahor’s ninth-minute goal.
Villa rallied to beat Liverpool 2-1 in an FA Cup semifinal at Wembley last April. Philippe Coutinho had the Reds in front on the half-hour mark, but current Red Benteke equalised six minutes later. Fabian Delph scored the winner nine minutes into the second half.
Overall Liverpool holds the Premier League head-to-head advantage, winning 24 times to Villa’s 12. There have been 10 draws in 46 meetings, and Liverpool have outscored Villa 73-44.
Man Utd To Battle Against Sunderland
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Mata, Memphis, Rooney, Martial.
Sunderland: Pantilimon; Yedlin, Kaboul, Coates, van Aanholt; M’Vila, Cattermole; Toivonen, Lens, Larsson; Borini
At his current goal-scoring rate, the world’s most expensive teenage signing may eventually be remembered as a bargain-basement buy.
Anthony Martial looks to continue his torrid start with the Red Devils at Old Trafford on Saturday when Manchester United host a reeling Sunderland side.
Though manager Louis van Gaal called the £36 million transfer price tag that could eventually reach £58 million “ridiculous,” the early return of investment for signing the French teenager has been highly promising. Martial has scored four goals in just 225 minutes of play over four matches across all competitions, and the 19-year-old is proving to be a handful for opponents at the domestic level.
He helped United bounce back from a stunning defeat at PSV to open Champions League play – the only match in which he failed to score – by bagging a brace in a 3-2 victory over Southampton last Saturday. Martial then put the finishing touch on Wednesday’s 3-0 triumph over Ipswich Town to advance the Red Devils to the fourth round of the League Cup opposite Championship side Middlesbrough.
“He knows that he can score because of his fellow players,” Van Gaal said of Martial to the team’s official website. “We made it for him two times very easy because we won the game and the gaps are existing. With his speed and composure, he can score.”
The midweek win healed some of the scars of last year’s embarrassing crash exit from the League Cup in van Gaal’s first season, a 4-0 setback at League One side MK Dons in the second round. But overall, things are on the upswing for United (4-1-1), who enter this match two points behind their neighbours in blue for the Premier League lead.
Wayne Rooney and fellow 19-year-old Andreas Pereira had the other goals for United, with the Brazilian youngster getting his first goal on a free kick in the 60th minute. Rooney’s 235th career goal for Manchester leaves him two behind Denis Law for second all-time.
While United appear to be enjoying some smooth sailing, it’s been anything but for Sunderland. The Black Cats (0-2-4) are partners in misery with their Tyneside neighbours Newcastle at the foot of the table, trailing the Magpies on goal difference and have shipped a league-worst 13 goals thus far.
A 2-0 league loss at new boys Bournemouth was followed by Manchester City storming to a 4-1 League Cup victory at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday, further intensifying the scrutiny on coach Dick Advocaat. The Dutchman, though, insisted there was optimism to be found and lamented a disallowed first-half goal he felt could have turned the match.
“It’s strange because we were 4-0 down but I thought for the first 20-35 minutes we did very well against an extremely good side,” he told Sunderland’s official website. “If Ola (Toivonen) had scored that early chance to make it 1-1 it could have been different, but it was not to be.”
Sunderland have failed to score in their last two league matches, but prior to the loss at Bournemouth, they had scored four goals in their two road matches. Jermaine Dafoe has failed to score since his hat trick in last month’s League Cup win over League Two side Exeter City – the lone victory for the Black Cats so far – and American winger DeAndre Yedlin showed enough pace in the midweek loss that he may find his way into this match.
United took four of the six points from the two matches last season, with Rooney’s brace accounting for their 2-0 home victory. Sunderland’s lone Premier League victory in 14 matches (1-2-11) at Old Trafford came in 2014.
Arsenal To Play Against Leicester City
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Ramsey, Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott.
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Laet, Morgan, Huth, Schlupp, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy.
Leicester City remain the only unbeaten side in the Premier League this season and look to keep that record intact against Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The Foxes (3-3-0) have been a revelation under new manager Claudio Ranieri and are up in fourth place with 12 points.
They rallied back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City last weekend. Jamie Vardy pulled one back, before Riyad Mahrez scored his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot to earn a point for Ranieri’s side.
Leicester also reached the last 16 of the League Cup as they beat West Ham United 2-1 in extra time at home Tuesday evening.
Twenty-year-old Foxes striker Joe Dodoo opened the scoring after just five minutes, but Mauro Zarate leveled for the Hammers midway through the first half. The game looked set for a penalty shootout before Andy King headed a winner for Leicester in the 116th minute.
Ranieri admires the strength of the Arsenal squad and expects a tough match against Arsene Wenger’s side.
“Arsene can choose his players,” Ranieri told his club’s website. “Maybe he can put (Alexis) Sanchez in the goal and put (Petr) Cech as a striker! It’s always a great team.
“Arsenal in my opinion are a very good team – now I will concentrate on how we can win against them. Every match is my biggest challenge – this is my philosophy. They are fantastic, good quality and move the ball very well and very quickly. If you want to find a weakness, it’s difficult, but we will try to find it.”
The Gunners (3-1-2) saw a four-match unbeaten run in the Premier League end with a controversial 2-0 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.
Defender Kurt Zouma gave Chelsea the lead on 53 minutes before Calum Chambers diverted an Eden Hazard into his own net in the 90th minute.
The talking point of the match was a clash between Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Arsenal defender Gabriel.
After a lengthy on-field row, Gabriel was sent off seconds before half-time for kicking out at Costa. Arsenal finished the match with nine men after midfielder Santi Cazorla was shown a second yellow card with just over 10 minute to play.
The Football Association later rescinded Gabriel’s red card and handed a three-match ban to Costa for violent conduct after studying video footage of the match. Costa had been accused of shoving his hand into the face of Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny.
The Gunners returned to winning ways on Wednesday with a 2-1 League Cup win at north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
French midfielder Mathieu Flamini scored both goals – the second with a superb volley – to earn the Gunners a place in the last 16.
“I’m very happy for the team because it was a difficult and tough game,” the 31-year-old told a post-match press conference. “Personally I am happy because I scored two goals.
“It was important because it was a derby. When you play Tottenham you want to win the game, but also for the fans because it’s a massively important game for them. We did a great job and now we can start the new week.”
Leicester’s Nathan Dyer is a doubtful with a knee problem. Arsenal trio Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck are all out through injury.
The Gunners took four points off Leicester last season, including a 2-1 win at the Emirates in February. Koscielny and Theo Walcott scored before halftime and Leicester could only come up with an Andrej Kramaric goal at the hour mark to halve the deficit. The sides drew 1-1 at the King Power Stadium in August with Sanchez scoring on 20 minutes, only to see Leonardo Ulloa equalise two minutes later.
The Foxes won the first Premier League meeting between the sides 2-1 in November 1994. They haven’t won any of their 17 subsequent top-flight meetings, going 0-6-11, and been outscored 41-15 in the 18 all-time matches.
Chelsea Desperate To Clinch 3 Points Against Newcastle United
Chelsea: Begovic, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Ivanovic, Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Pedro, Remy.
Newcastle United: Krul, Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Haidara, Wijnaldum, Colback, Sissoko, Perez, Thauvin, Mitrovic.
There are no shortage of talking points heading into Saturday’s match between host Newcastle United and Chelsea at St James’ Park.
Steve McClaren’s Newcastle side are in disarray. Yet to record a win in the Premier League, the Magpies (0-2-4) go into this contest on the back of three straight league defeats. But even more damaging for morale at the north east club was Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to second-tier Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup, which was greeted by a chorus of boos from the Toon Army.
“Is the job harder than I thought? Absolutely. Without a doubt,” a clearly frustrated McClaren said after the game. “People say it’s a crisis and it’s getting very close to it. We deserve to be criticised.
“We have said to the players: ‘You can’t feel sorry for yourselves. You have got to come out on Saturday and be a fighter or a victim.’ It’s one or the other, and we can only have fighters on there now. We have got to get people ready for Saturday, ready to fight. One result turns it around.”
Chelsea’s own chaotic start to the season has settled down in recent weeks – in terms of results at least.
Jose Mourinho’s side have won three games on the spin in all competitions, including last weekend’s much-needed 2-0 victory over London rivals Arsenal.
However, the Blues (2-1-3) will be without striker Diego Costa for three games as a result of his off-the-ball infringements in that win. The Brazilian-born Spanish international was handed a suspension retrospectively, while Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista had his own red card rescinded.
That decision won’t reduce the feeling at Chelsea that there is an anti-Chelsea “campaign” at the FA, but the Blues boss kept his comments on the issue short at his pre-match press conference.
“I don’t comment. If I comment, bring examples, go deep and bring feelings into the discussion, a big suspension will be waiting for me. I don’t want that, the team doesn’t need that,” Mourinho said, before commenting. “Now we know that retaliation is allowed. No problem, you can do it.
“Every time we lose a player it’s not good for the team. I think it’s easier to accept an injury. An injury is part of the game and we have to be mentally ready for it. This situation goes deeper in feelings. Obviously the team is hurt but as I was saying although I don’t play, score goals, and tackle, my communication on the pitch is positive for the team, so I prefer to be quiet.”
In addition to the absence of suspended Costa, Chelsea are still without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (knee) and could be without Brazilian midfielder Willian, who has a hamstring problem.
Another notable absentee in the dugout will be Dr. Eva Carneiro, who left the west London club this week, six weeks after having her role downgraded and being described as “naïve” by Mourinho for responding to a referee’s request to issue treatment to Eden Hazard. Carneiro is now said to be “considering her legal position.”
Newcastle’s woes are compounded by a burgeoning injury list. The Magpies are without Massadio Haidara, Papiss Cisse, Karl Darlow, Steven Taylor, Paul Dummett, Emmanuel Riviere and Curtis Good, while Sylvain Marveaux, Cheick Tiote, Jack Colback, Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat are all doubts.
Recent fortunes suggest a comfortable Chelsea win, but Newcastle have won their last three Premier League home games against the Blues. Mourinho has never won a Premier League game at St James’ Park in five attempts.
Southampton To Face Swansea City
Southampton: Stekelenburg, Targett, Dijk, Fonte, Soares; Wanyama, Davis, Tadic, Ward-Prowse, Mane, Pelle.
Swansea City: Fabianski, Taylor, Williams, Fernandez, Naughton, Shelvey, Cork, Montero, Sigurdsson, Ayew, Gomis.
Southampton have been boosted by an emphatic domestic cup win ahead of their Premier League match against Swansea at St. Mary’s on Saturday.
The Saints (1-3-2) have made a disappointing start to their league campaign with just one win to their credit and are in 16th place on six points.
They were beaten at home 3-2 by Manchester United last week after dominating the first 30 minutes against the Red Devils.
Graziano Pelle gave Southampton a deserved lead on 13 minutes before Anthony Martial scored twice for the visitors and Juan Mata added a third to take the game away from the Saints. Pelle netted his second of the match late, but Southampton couldn’t find an equaliser.
The Saints bounced back in style on Wednesday with a dazzling 6-0 League Cup win at Championship side MK Dons. Jay Rodriguez, Sadio Mane and Shane Long all scored twice.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was proud of his side’s performance.
“It’s always very good to have these kind of results, but we have to realise it will be more difficult (against Swansea), but I think how we played today gives the team a good confidence for Saturday,” Koeman told his club’s website. “I’m very pleased because I think we showed our qualities from the beginning of the game. We had a good start, a good goal from Jay and that makes everything a little bit more easy.
“We kept the spirit in the team and we did some good pressing in the first 30 minutes and I think the best was the second half, because after 3-0 sometimes it’s difficult to keep really the spirit and the concentration. We worked very hard even in the second half to score more goals to thank the great support what we had again from our fans. I’m very pleased about the performance.”
The Swans (2-3-1) moved up to seventh in the table on nine points after playing out a goalless home draw last weekend against Everton, who had Kevin Mirallas sent off in the last minute for a high challenge, 136 seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Swansea’s midweek League Cup match ended in defeat as they lost 1-0 at Championship side Hull City. David Meyler scored the winner for the Tigers with a close-range finish just before the break.
Manager Garry Monk is confident his Swansea side will respond positively.
“We always react well when we get setbacks,” Monk told his club’s website. “We did that well against Everton last weekend and I think it was a really good point in the end and a fair result.
“But we’ve had one league defeat since we came back for pre-season and we’re playing well and doing the right things. The effort and commitment is there and we’re creating lots of good chances – we were the better side again in midweek against Hull and should have won.”
Both sides won 1-0 on each other’s grounds last season, with Swansea winning 1-0 at St. Mary’s in February. Jonjo Shelvey got the only goal that day on Swansea’s only shot on target seven minutes from time. The Saints won 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium in September with Victor Wanyama netting the winner in the 80th minute.
Southampton hold the Premier League head-to-head edge over Swansea, winning three times and losing once. The clubs have also drawn twice, and the Saints have outscored the Swans 5-2 overall.
West Ham Looking For A Win Against Norwich City
West Ham: Adrian, Jenkinson, Reid, Tomkins, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Lanzini, Payet, Moses, Sakho.
Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Brady, Redmond, Tettey, Dorrans, Howson, Hoolahan, Jerome.
If someone had told West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic that his club would be in third place after six matches with 12 points and road wins over both Manchester City and Liverpool, he probably would be a bit skeptical at the least.
But that’s exactly where the Hammers (4-0-2) are heading into Saturday’s clash with Norwich City at Upton Park, and they’re seeking a fourth consecutive Premier League victory following a stunning 2-1 result over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Victor Moses and Diafra Sakho.
The Hammers are in search of their first four-match winning streak in league play since February 2014 and have managed this success by being remarkably opportunistic in the final third.
The club has netted 13 goals in six matches, joint top-scorers with Leicester City, but Hammers have attempted just 62 shots – better than only bottom two clubs Sunderland and Newcastle.
The Hammers are also in the bottom six in both passes per match (354) and passing accuracy (75.7%), but no team has scored more goals (9) in the danger area than the east Londoners.
“Well we’d like to win both (home and away fixtures), six points is obviously nicer than three,” Bilic said. “We won our last home game which was crucial to get that first home win. We are going to do everything to win and get four straight league wins that is our aim.”
“We’re not looking too far ahead, we’re thinking about September and October. We don’t want to look too far ahead or think about where we might finish in the table, it is too early for that.”
Hammers, though, must also regroup after being ousted from the League Cup following their 2-1 loss in extra time to Leicester City on Tuesday. Mauro Zarate’s first-half goal brought West Ham level after an early marker by Joe Dodoo, and Hammers were four minutes from penalties when Andy King scored to put Leicester City through.
Norwich also produced a result last time out in league play, battling Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield as Russell Martin’s second-half strike canceled out a Danny Ings goal to force the sides into sharing the spoils. They followed that effort with a 3-0 victory over West Brom on Wednesday to reach the fourth round of the League Cup opposite Everton, getting second-half goals from Matthew Jarvis and Kyle Lafferty before an own goal by the Baggies flattered the scoreline further.
“It was a fantastic team performance against Premier League opposition so we’re really pleased to get through to the next round,” former Hammers midfielder Gary O’Neil told Norwich City TV. “We probably should have made it a bit easier by going in front earlier on but we stuck in there and got a convincing win in the end.”
Newly promoted sides often struggle in their first season back in the top flight, but the Canaries (2-2-2) have given a good account of themselves early on with wins over fellow promoted club Bournemouth and Sunderland.
Norwich, though, have yet to find a consistent balance in attacking and defending. While they have been held off the scoresheet just once in league play, scoring 10 goals and averaging 7.5 shots from outside the penalty area, they have yet to turn in a clean sheet in their six matches and have conceded seven times in the second half.
The Canaries also need to improve their away form if they want to remain in the top flight – they’ve gone 1-4-9 in their last 14 away from Carrow Road.
Given the opportunistic nature of West Ham’s play early on, Neil’s men will need to be at their best for 90 minutes if they want to at least take a point.
“Norwich are a good side. They are hard to breakdown, they work as a unit,” Bilic acknowledged. “They have a bit of everything.”
Both sides recorded two-goal home victories over each other in the 2013-14 season, the last time these sides were in the Premier League. West Ham won 2-0 in February 2014 while Norwich came from behind to win 3-1 at Carrow Road in November 2013.
Stoke City vs Bournemouth
Stoke City: Butland, Pieters, Wilson, Cameron, Johnson, Ginkel, Whelan, Arnautovic, Bojan, Shaqiri, Crouch.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Daniels, Cook, Distin, Francis, Pugh, Surman, Gosling, Ritchie, Tomlin, Wilson.
Stoke City entertain Bournemouth on Saturday still looking to secure their first Premier League win of the season.
The Potters (0-3-3) recorded their first win in all competitions on Tuesday night with a narrow 1-0 victory to eliminate Championship side Fulham from the League Cup.
Now Stoke boss Mark Hughes wants to back that win up with a first league triumph following a good night’s work in London.
“We had a lot of control in the game, especially in the first half where we created a couple of good chances and more importantly took one of them,” Hughes told the official club website. “I think we expected a little bit of a response in the second half from Fulham and we got that, more so in the last ten minutes when they threw everybody forward.”
The importance of the shutout was not lost on Hughes given the Potters have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their six Premier League matches this season.Only Norwich City, Sunderland and Chelsea, perhaps remarkably, have allowed more goals than Stoke (9) in the Premier League this season.
“They (Fulham) put a number of balls into the box which we had to deal with and Shay (Given) came to the rescue as well a couple of times,” said Hughes. “We could have also gone up the other end and really finished the game off but we missed a couple of chances.
“Overall, we’re pleased with the result and the clean sheet was important for us, which will put in good heart for the next round and at the weekend as well.”
The Potters have scored only five league goals and their misfiring offence will need all the defensive help they can get as only Liverpool, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion have netted fewer goals this season.
Indicative of Stoke’s woes is that 56 percent of their shots have come from outside the box this season, the highest percentage in the league.
Only 20 percent of Stoke’s passes this season have come in the final third, and only basement-dwellers Sunderland have a lower percentage of passes in the attacking third.
Opponents Bournemouth were able to celebrate a League Cup victory of their own on Tuesday after overcoming League One side Preston North End on penalties.
The Cherries (2-1-3) are looking for third consecutive win in all competitions after beating Sunderland 2-0 at the Vitality Stadium last weekend.
Having scouted Saturday’s opponents extensively Cherries manager Eddie Howe believes Stoke’s form belies their position.
“When I have reviewed Stoke’s games I have been very impressed,” Howe told the official club website. “They don’t look like a team that haven’t won yet.”
Howe is determined to ensure the Potters’ recovery won’t start on Saturday.
“They are the kind of side that you will see in a few weeks and they will be in a very different position,” he added. “But we don’t need to worry about that. We know that if we are at our best levels we can beat anyone in this league – so it’s down to us.”
Howe will have to do without club captain Tommy Elphick (ankle) and Harry Arter (groin) for the match.The Potters are missing defender Ryan Shawcross with a back injury and forward Mame Biram Diouf is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
The sides are meeting for the first time since the 2003 FA Cup, when Stoke won 3-0 at home in the fourth round.
It will be the first league meeting between the sides since the 2001-02 season in the old third tier. Saturday will mark the first ever top-flight meeting between Stoke and Bournemouth.