When Bolton manager Owen Coyle takes a look at the statistics for why his club are struggling second bottom at the foot of the Premier League there will be one worrying conclusion he will come too. His Bolton side can’t win at home, and if you can’t win your home games in this league, it’s generally 18th or below where you end up come May.
So far this season they have played five games at home, failing to get a point against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea (no shame there) but not only did they fail to beat Norwich City and Sunderland, they were also overturned by those sides as well. In their last home game a down on their luck Sunderland comfortably beat a negative Bolton side 2-0 and it’s been misery upon misery for the Wanderers fans to pay for the privilege of watching.
Some would say it was their opponents today that caused the downward spiral. Back in April, Stoke crushed Bolton 5-0 in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and since then Coyle’s men have lost 13 out of 16 league games. It’s a pandemic of losing and losing without putting up a fight and for a manager who recently has had so much success with his tactics, is now starting to get hammered and the pressure is mounting. As I said… lose your home games, you don’t usually last long.
But Bolton might feel their opponents today are their for the taking. Stoke’s tactics came back to haunt them against Newcastle on Monday Night in front of the t.v. cameras and they have since made the trip to Tel Aviv in mid-week and may be feeling lethargic. Manager Tony Pulis did rest nine players specifically for today’s Premier League game and he’ll be hoping there’s no Halloween Hangover from Monday night on display today.
Ricard Gardner is missing for the game today due to suspension for being sent off against Swansea. Paul Robinson will be his replacement.
Captain Kevin Davies is hopeful of a return but no such luck for long term absentees Tyrone Mears, Lee Chung-yong, Stuart Holden, Sean Davis and Sam Ricketts
For Stoke, Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson will be assessed late but Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennanet and Rory Delap (and his long throws!) are doubts.
Danny Higginbotham has now played a full match after his cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out for seven months whilst Cameron Jermone and Jonathan Woodgate are back in the squad and raring to go.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Wheater, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Eagles, Robinson, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov, K Davies, Klasnic, Tuncay, Bogdan, M Davies, Pratley, Ngog, Blake, Kakuta.
Stoke (from): Begovic, Sorensen, Nash, Huth, Upson, Woodgate, Shawcross, Wilson, Wilkinson, Whelan, Whitehead, Diao, Etherington, Walters, Jerome, Shotton, Arismendi, Pennant, Delap, Crouch, Palacios, Jones, Higginbotham.
Prediction – 0-0 – Fiercely contested draw is on the cards with both sides desperate not to lose.