Stoke to surprise in Premier League battle of the Midlands

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While Manchester City and Newcastle United are the runaway favourites in the respective Top team in the North East and Top team in the North West markets at Ladbrokes, it’s much more of a close run thing in the Midlands.

Aston Villa are the 6/5 favourites to finish above West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City in the Premier League standings, but with just two points separating the three sides, this could be one for the outsiders.

Of the two contenders facing off against the Villans, it’s the Potters who look the better placed to finish highest out of the three Midlands clubs.

Mark Hughes’ side are 11/4 to be the top club from the region after going five Premier League games without a win but, provided they end their current run, they could be real contenders.

Prior to the five game streak, the Potters had been in solid form, losing just one of eight Premier League fixtures during a run that saw them pick up wins over Chelsea and, notably, Aston Villa.

With the team transitioning from the dark days of the Tony Pulis era to the more free flowing style Hughes is evidently pushing for, once that ethos kicks into place then don’t be surprised to see them shoot up the table.

They certainly aren’t pushing the panic button in the way their Midlands counterparts are, with Villa already one of the main culprits for the annual January panic buy after picking up Wigan Athletic’s Grant Holt until the end of the season.

The Latics were only too happy to oblige when Paul Lambert came calling, after Holt endured a miserable start to his Championship career with just two league goals for the club, both of which came way back at the start of the campaign.

West Brom are 8/5 to be the highest placed Midlands club come the end of the current campaign, but the transfer window has seen them weaken an already thin squad with the sale of Shane Long to Hull.

Throw in the fact that new manager Pepe Mel has yet to record a win for the Hawthorns club and the debacle involving Nicolas Anelka’s controversial quenelle celebration and things are looking bleak for the Baggies.

It clears the way for Stoke, who could return to winning ways next time out in the league against Sunderland.

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

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.