Mark Hughes is contemplating freshening up his in-form Stoke City side as they attempt to build on a fruitful festive period in their trip to West Brom on Saturday.
Stoke put in a classy performance to beat Manchester United 2-0 on Boxing Day before making it back-to-back Premier League victories by edging a seven-goal thriller 4-3 at Everton on Monday.
Manager Hughes opted to name the same starting XI in those fixtures despite the 48-hour turnaround, a decision vindicated by Stoke’s maximum haul.
But while the Welshman is reluctant to change a winning formula, he is wary of burning his players out, with a League Cup semi-final against Liverpool also on the horizon.
“I think continuity in a team is important if you are to progress, but I am wary that the lads who started both games recently put a lot into those matches,” Hughes told his pre-match media conference on Thursday.
“That, and the fact that West Brom will arguably be more rigid than United and Everton, may shape my thinking somewhat.
“The guys have had a couple of days off to recuperate so we will see how they are in training today and then make a decision on the side.”
Marko Arnautovic, who scored against United and Everton, is expected to be feature despite a tight hamstring but the match is likely to come too soon for Marc Muniesa (hamstring) and Stephen Ireland (knock).
West Brom head coach Tony Pulis welcomes a club where he had two spells as manager, the second of which between 2006 and 2013 proved particularly memorable as they achieved promotion to the Premier League in 2008 before consolidating in the top flight.
“I look forward to hosting my former club, I have great memories from there,” Pulis said. “Stoke have put a strong squad together, we know what a tough game it will be.”
West Brom ended a five-match winless run with a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over struggling Newcastle United on Monday.
Ahead of that match, Pulis stated that unsettled striker Saido Berahino was lucky to make the bench and hinted at off-field misdemeanours, but he may be thrust into action with Salomon Rondon suspended and Victor Anichebe (hamstring) a doubt.
Pulis added: “That’s all done and dusted, we’ve moved on from that.
“The kid came on and did really well for 30 minutes and he’s got a great chance of playing.”
Winger James McClean serves the last of his three-match ban, while Pulis will give a late check on Jonas Olsson (hamstring).
Key Opta stats:
– Tony Pulis has only ever been on the losing side once in this fixture. His record as Stoke City boss was W5 D2 L1 and as West Brom manager W2 D0 L0.
– Stoke City won seven and lost just one of the 11 Barclays Premier League meetings with West Brom before Pulis took over the Baggies.
– There have been just 20 goals in the 13 Premier League games between Stoke and West Brom and just eight in the last seven encounters.
– Marko Arnautovic has scored seven Premier League goals in 18 appearances this season – two more goals than he managed in his previous two seasons at the club combined (five goals in 59 apps).
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