So this is Christmas...Moyes-style. Even after a series of season-changing performances, and picking up an unexpected 4 points in the series of games against Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal, the Hammers are still in the relegation zone. As a consequence, their Christmas campaign represents a crucial period for the club with lofty ambitions and an underperforming squad. In response, David Moyes has postponed the Christmas party until the club have achieved Premiership safety - something that is quite likely to run until the end of the season in a congested bottom half of the league!
Today's visit to Stoke will be a real test as the Hammers will be expected to do better than the 30% possession they have averaged in their past three games. Stoke are another side who are happy to let their opponents have the ball and try to catch them on the counter, so it'll be interesting to see who gets the lion's share of possession. While against the odds wins over the likes of Chelsea are very pleasing, it's games against fellow strugglers like Stoke and Newcastle that will decide the club's fate.
The Hammers have an awful record at the Brittania stadium but Stoke are on a dreadful run having lost 4 of their last five games. The absence of Winston Reid is a major concern for Moyes, but with the usually super-reliant James Collins ready to fill in, the Hammers will be hoping to continue their recent run of clean sheets.
It is widely rumoured that Michail Antonio will be rested thus allowing Chicharito to return to lead the line but Moyes may prefer the physicality of Sakho or Carroll, especially at set pieces. Although the 'new' Stoke have a reputation for more positive and attacking football, they have the highest percentage of goals from set pieces in the Premiership accounting for 7 of their 19 strikes so far this season.
Marko Arnautovic will need to keep a cool head as he will undoubtedly receive a 'warm' welcome from his ex-club, but is on top form and may well silence the boo boys with a game-defining contribution. After letting the side down earlier in the season with a foolish red card, one would expect that he should have learned his lesson - but he isn't nicknamed 'Mad Marko' for nothing!
Mystic Mark Lawrenson predicts a 1-1 draw, Paul Merson reckons it'll be 1-0 to the Potters, while Michael Owen fancies a 0-1 Hammers smash n grab raid. However, with the two leakiest defences in the league on show (Stoke 36 goals, West Ham 32 goals) we reckon a high scoring game is much more likely!
Rory Nostradamus is opting for a 2-3 scoreline, with the Hammers coming out on top.
Arnie to net the winner, of course!