After a sluggish start, Stoke have been improving week on week much to the disappointment of those ‘purists’ who had hoped that this could be the year the Premier League finally saw the back of them.
Their throwback style of play may not be pretty but is very effective and, more importantly, has seen the Potters win four of their last five games to place them above both Arsenal and Liverpool in the table. A price of 19/10 says their rich vein of form will continue with a win over Aston Villa next.
Villa themselves have shown improvements of late and are without defeat in three, conceding just once in that period.
However, the sides they played – Arsenal, Reading and QPR – were nowhere near as hot as Tony Pulis’ side currently are and this game will represent resurgent Villa’s biggest test yet.
These sides are far from prolific so don’t expect a goal glut at Villa Park. In addition to only conceding once, the Villans managed to score just twice in their three-game purple patch, while Stoke’s last five outings have yielded just eight at both ends.
Under 1.5 goals can be backed at a tempting 2/1 and could be well worth a bet, while the draw with fewer than 2.5 scored at 15/8 is generously priced.
Stoke aren’t the strongest on the road – their win over West Brom last weekend was their first away from the Britannia this season. They’d definitely take a draw as they mount a charge for a top-half finish and, given the current state of affairs at Aston Villa, a point at home to Stoke would be considered a respectable achievement.
At 9/4, backing the draw here (as has been the case in five of their previous eight Premier League meetings) looks the safest way to cash in on what is set to be a dreary encounter in the west-Midlands.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date