Fulham-Stoke City Preview

The Associated Press

Stoke City will make club history if they win their last two matches of the season, starting with Saturday's home match against relegation-threatened Fulham at the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters (11-11-14) are currently 10th in the table and will be certain to finish in the top half of the Premier League for the first time by taking maximum points from the Cottagers and then struggling West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on the final day of the campaign.

Back-to-back wins would also see Stoke ending the season as the highest-placed Midlands team in the Premier League for the first time, as well as reaching the 50-point target manager Mark Hughes set for his team back in August.

"I'm not one for setting my expectations low, hoping to do well and make myself look better, I prefer to set the benchmark high, get everybody on board with those thoughts and try to achieve something that way," Hughes told stokecityfc.com. "We have had a very good season, but we still have two games to go and we have a very real chance of writing history.

"We would love to end the season as the best Midlands club, and of course finishing in the top-half for the first time would be a wonderful achievement."

Stoke suffered their first home defeat in seven matches last weekend when they lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in a fiercely fought match that saw Potters defender Ryan Shawcross sent off on 52 minutes after being shown a second yellow card.

Fulham (9-4-23) are second from bottom in the standings, and although they are only one point from safety, their goal difference of minus-42 is the worst in the league.

The Cottagers' Premier League survival hopes were dealt a major blow as they threw away a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 at home to Hull City last weekend. Ashkan Dejagah opened the scoring on 55 minutes and Fernando Amorebieta doubled the lead on the hour. Tigers pulled one back through Nikica Jelavic before Shane Long headed an equaliser three minutes from time.

Fulham captain Brede Hangeland believes the Cottagers have to beat Stoke and win their last match of the season at home to a much-improved Crystal Palace side on May 11 to have a chance of staying in the Premier League.

"I think we need to win the last two," Hangeland told fulhamfc.com after the Hull match. "That is clear for everyone to see. Is that impossible? No, it is far from impossible. Of course we can do it.

"It is all about doing the business next week and then the week after and hoping that will be enough. It is a massive game next week and we have to win that."

Stoke will be without Shawcross, who is suspended following his dismissal against Tottenham. Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell is doubtful after being forced out of the Hull game with an ankle injury.

Fulham beat Stoke 1-0 at Craven Cottage in early October after striker Darren Bent came off the bench to score the game's only goal seven minutes from time.