Midlands madness: Stoke at Saints and Baggies battle Palace
For all the Midlands teams competing in the Premier League this term, a top 10 finish is the most likely aim. Stoke City did just that under Mark Hughes last term, and are 13/8 chances with Coral to end up in such a position again.
The Potters faces a tough trip to in-form Southampton, however. West Bromwich Albion are also looking up, and have odds of 11/2 to finish in the top half this term. They take on Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns, having held Manchester United there impressively last time out.
Southampton v Stoke
Ronald Koeman’s Saints were at their ruthless best when battering Sunderland 8-0 on the south coast in their previous assignment, but it may interest punters to know all of their last four Premier League clashes have been score draws. Back a share of the spoils again at 14/5.
Goals should be guaranteed as in those encounters 14, or an average of 3.5, have flown in. A price of 12/5 says the match total will exceed this figure. As Southampton are unbeaten at home this term, netting 13 in their last three, they are odds-on 8/13 favourites for victory, while the Potters are 5/1 outsiders as they have only got one away win, at champions Manchester City, in the league so far.
Five of Saints top scorer Graziano Pelle’s six top-flight goals have come at home, including two braces. The Italy cap is odds-on at 10/11 to net again anytime, and 4/1 for another couple or better. Punters may also want to consider an enhanced 9/2 scoring double involving Pelle and Liverpool attacker Raheem Sterling.
Stoke boss Hughes will hope Peter Crouch can keep up a run of away goals at St Mary’s. The ex-England international has netted on each of his previous two Potters visits to former club Southampton, and can be backed to do so again at a tempting 10/3.
Alternatively, Nigeria winger Victor Moses could put a controversial week behind him, following allegations of diving to win a penalty, by netting anytime at 11/2. Stoke’s only absentee is midfielder Glenn Whelan with a broken leg, but defender Phil Bardsley faces a fitness test.
West Brom v Crystal Palace
Given the form star Baggies striker Saido Berahino is in, six in his last five home outings, and the fact he scored at The Hawthorns against Palace last November, a repeat result of Albion’s victory looks likely at 10/11. A 2-0 win which they enjoyed then comes in at 8/1 to happen again here.
Eagles boss Neil Warnock must make changes because of suspension to defender Damien Delaney and injury to midfielder James McArthur. Scott Dann is recovering from a knee problem, so the Londoners’ backline will be weak, and therefore perfect prey for Berahino.
Burundi-born England Under-21 international Berahino is really hammering metaphorically on Roy Hodgson’s door for a senior call-up, and is 5/4 to net anytime in this encounter. Better odds of 5/1 are also available for him to open the scoring.
Due to their injury problems, Palace are 10/3 outsiders to upset Alan Irvine’s side, while the draw is priced at 5/2. Those odds notwithstanding, Morocco frontman Marouane Chamakh scored both home and away over all competitions last term and was on target the last time he completed 90 minutes, so is 11/4 to net again at The Hawthorns.