Stoke City, with it's pair of Americans grabbing the attention of at least of few of their countrymen across the pond, head to Loftus Road on Saturday to battle QPR in a crucial game for both sides. Stoke's recent form leave them perilously close to the drop zone in 16th, just three points clear of 18th place Wigan. Tony Pulis is under pressure, Stoke's brutal style of play is starting to wear thin with frantic supporters, and only a win against Harry Redknapp's club will do anything to lighten the load.

The most pressing problem is that Stoke hardly score these days, and they've hardly scored away from the Britannia all year. Hence the word at Betfair, with Stoke a 3.65 wager to win. It wouldn't be in character for Pulis to let his charges loose against QPR, even if getting a goal that can bring three points is crucial. On the other side, Harry Redknapp will have every reason to take the game to Stoke at home in London. QPR's situation is dire with the club 10 points adrift of safety, and only a rampant run of form down the stretch of the season will keep the Hoops up for another year in the Premier League.

Of Stoke's American contingent, only the trusted Geoff Cameron will be expected to play a part. Whether due to lack of fitness or because of his liabilities on the defensive side of the ball, Tony Pulis hasn't yet seen fit to give former FC Dallas man Shea much of a look. This is the case enough though Stoke is without winger Matthew Etherington due to injury. Shea's move to Stoke remains a bit of a head-scratcher for that reason; if Pulis had no intention of using Shea (and his attacking abilities) this season, the transfer during the dying hours of the January window makes little sense. Nothing else has worked for Stoke lately--would it be so wrong to give the young American with the funny hair a run out against one of the league's worst teams?


The chances of a set piece goal, for either side, are notable. Stoke is both the league leader in percentage of total goals scored from set pieces (57%) and conceded (46%). QPR's Loic Remy is hot, with goals in four of his last six Premier League appearances. Stoke City has just five points in 2013, and just one in their last seven games. Stoke hasn't picked up a point away from home in their last six trips. QPR has scored first a league low nine times this season, but when they do, they're good at protecting a lead.


Considering Stoke's trouble putting the ball in the net and QPR's greater comfort at home, Harry Redknapp's side looks like a winner, 1-0.
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