Top half challengers – season of toil may await stalling Stoke
Having surpassed most people’s expectations, Stoke embark on their third campaign in the Premier League hoping for more than mere survival.
Tony Pulis’ men could struggle, however, with the slightly raised expectations. Having failed to make an outfield signing yet this summer, their stale squad are in danger of stalling, and they are priced at 5/1 to be relegated.
Thomas Sorensen endured a jittery World Cup campaign with Denmark, and his confidence may have been hit by a couple of mistakes which led to goals.
January signing Asmir Begovic could start as first choice, while Carlo Nash has been signed on a free transfer to provide cover.
Stoke have an outside 20/1 chance of finishing in the top six, and if they were to pull off such a shock, their success would undoubtedly be built upon their rock-solid backline.
Pulis often fields a defence comprised entirely of players over 6ft tall, and its core is the towering presence of Ryan Shawcross, who could win his first England cap this season.
While the midfield is often bypassed by the team’s tendency to launch high balls from central defence to attack, one of Stoke’s most creative players, Matthew Etherington, has signed a new contract.
Pulis is thought to be searching the transfer market for a central midfielder, as Liam Lawrence has been linked with a move to Celtic.
Successful during Stoke’s first season in the Premier League, Ricardo Fuller had a disappointing last term and he is 150/1 to recover by being the league’s top scorer this season.
James Beattie mustered just two goals last season, and the former Southampton marksman is rumoured to be heading for the exit at the Britannia Stadium.
Who else could be in danger of going down? West Ham are 3/1 to be relegated. See the full Barclays Premier League Betting Odds market.