Stoke City clear favourites for top Midlands club

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With Birmingham and Wolves no longer sitting at the top table of English football the race to be top Midlands club is of the four horse variety – on paper at least.

In reality it is a one nag affair – two at best – with a couple of the region’s sides more concerned with avoiding a fall through the trap door than giving their fans something to crow about down the pub.

Here Ladbrokes News’ James Curtis reveals why the bookies are right to price the market they way they have.

Stoke City @ 11/10

Stoke have all the ingredients to do more than just make up the numbers this term, despite some lacklustre results during the pre-season schedule, and are set to be the pick of the Midlands sides.

Mark Hughes is doing his best to banish the memory of the rough and direct Potters people expected under Tony Pulis and has added to his squad well this summer.

As a former striker, Hughes must see the potential in Mame Biram Diouf that Manchester United didn’t and after smashing 26 goals in 57 games for Hannover the Welshman could be right.

Adding the potential flair of Bojan Krkic to a spine including Asmir Begovic, Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Steve Sidwell could see many a smiling face at the Britannia this season.

Aston Villa @ 16/5

At present Paul Lambert has a squad at his disposal that should avoid a relegation battle this time round.

The additions of Phillipe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson should add much-needed experience to a young squad.

Fabian Delph is on the rise and the fit again Jores Okore could be a major boost for the Villans. However, the Scot will need to keep hold of Ron Vlaar and Christian Benteke if his side is to improve on last year.

Lambert also never seems to not be under pressure and the presence of Roy Keane waiting in the wings could prove more hindrance than help.

West Bromwich Albion @ 4/1

The Baggies will be more concerned with avoiding the drop than local bragging rights this term and are best avoided in this market.

The additions of Joleon Lescott from Manchester City and Liverpool prospect Andre Wisdom should make Albion a harder side to beat but Alan Irvine’s side look to be lacking a bit of bite in attack.

Saido Berahino has shown glimpses of what the future holds but pinning hopes on him and Victor Anichibe doesn’t look the wisest move.

Albion were three points off the drop last term and can expect a close ride this time round too.

Leicester City @ 4/1

The way the Foxes cruised the Championship last year means they will probably not be the whipping boys many people suggest but again they will be focusing on consolidation rather than one-upmanship on their Midlands foes.

Nigel Pearson’s side is well organised and boasts a smattering of top flight experience. Much will depend on how the Premier League newcomers adjust to life in the top flight, with a particular focus on striker Leonardo Ulloa.

Foxes fans should abandon all hope of being the top side in their region and be happy with anything other than a bottom three spot.

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

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