STOKEALONA is possibly the cheesiest tag ever handed to a football team but Mark Hughes’s men are doing their best to live up to the tag.
Do you remember the days when Stoke always featured last on Match of the Day – not any more.
Hughes has talents such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic shining and they’ve rattled in 11 goals in six games defeating Man Utd and Man City 2-0 before a thrilling 4-3 victory at Everton at the weekend.
Shaqiri scored two crackers – one a goal-of-the-season contender if he meant it – and Hughes’s men head to West Brom today full of confidence.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis must be struggling to recognise his old club and he while he’s maintained the pragmatic approach he adopted at Stoke he’ll be dismayed at stats showing their goals against record at home is the second worst in the league.
If Hughes approaches the game the same way as he did the trip to Goodison there should be plenty of goals but it’s the result I’m more interested in.
West Brom ended a rotten run by beating Newcastle 1-0 but are missing players such as James McClean and Salomon Rondon who are banned while defender Jonas Olsson and striker Victor Anichebe are doubts.
Shaqiri’s goals were his first of the season so for a scorer I’d rather side with Arnautovic at 3-1 with Ladbrokes. The Austrian also netted at Goodison and has four in his last five outings. Krkic has also found some form with two in three games and is 3-1 at bet365 to net at any time.
At the top of the table just four points separate the top four and in the second half of the season it looks a three-way fight for the title between Arsenal, Man City and Spurs.
Man City weren’t great at Leicester and face an equally tough task at Watford. If the home men keep 11 on the park this could be another draw.
Second-placed Leicester look big at 1-1 at home to Bournemouth. Claudio Ranieri tinkered with tactics for the first time this season to cancel out Man City but he’ll be back to two up front and Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez can run riot against a side who almost always concede.
Vardy has been ill and didn’t look his sharpest on Tuesday so look at Mahrez to score first at 11-2 with McBookie.
Elsewhere today Man Utd face bogey side Swansea who are unbeaten in three under Alan Curtis with no goals conceded. This could be another 0-0 – no scorer pays 9-1 at bet365.
Swansea have won four of their last five against the Reds – all by 2-1. They are 13-2 with McBookie to add to van Gaal’s misery while a 2-1 away win pays 17-2.
The early game sees Liverpool head to West Ham and Jurgen Klopp’s men will have to improve on their sorry show at Sunderland to get a result. The Hammers ended a miserable spell with victory over Southampton and will fancy their chances against a side who have lost their way a bit after a promising start under the German.
It will be a nervy occasion when bottom two Sunderland and Aston Villa meet at the Stadium of Light. A draw looks likely with few goals.
Norwich v Southampton could also be a low-scoring and that’s a result the home men will be happy about.
Bets to Consider
Ramsey to score
Mahrez to score
Sunderland v Aston Villa draw