Improving Stoke stuck on to repeat Premier League top-half finish

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After finishing in the top half of the Premier League for the first time at the end of Mark Hughes’ debut season in the manager’s seat, Stoke rate a cracking 6/4 shot to be among the top flight’s ten best this term, especially considering the Potters’ eye-catching recent purchases.

Three-time La Liga-winning striker Bojan Krkic’s capture from Barcelona has stolen the headlines in the Potteries, and the 23-year-old recently got off the mark in a 2-1 pre-season defeat to Schalke.

Krkic joins fellow La Masia graduate Marc Muniesa at the Britannia, the 22-year-old who left Cataluna last summer to further swell Stoke’s high-quality centre-half ranks, which include captain Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and new signing Dionatan Teixeira.

Muniesa made his way into the starting line-up six times after the start of December during his first top-flight term, with Stoke winning half of those fixtures and losing just one.

Peter Odemwingie’s January signing from Cardiff also boosted the six-season Premier League regulars, as the Nigerian contributed five goals in 15 appearances, with his side claiming 13 points from the matches he fired home in.

Champions Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs are the only top-flight teams to have got the better of Stoke since January, and the likes of Muniesa and Odemwingie, plus wingers Marko Arnautovic and Oussama Assaidi – if the latter rejoins on loan from Liverpool – should prove even more useful this term.

With hugely experienced Premier League campaigners Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell also brought in to stiffen up central midfield and right-back, Hughes’ second season in the Stoke hotseat ought to be an improvement on 2013/14.

As it is, this bet lands even if the Welshman’s charges drop a place, so get on while it’s still odds-against.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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