Potters to stoke up pressure on Magpies

Stoke CityBookmakers continue to underestimate the value of English Premier League team Stoke and it is the best bet on this weekend’s reduced program at odds of 2.25 with Ladbrokes and Totesport to defeat Newcastle at the Britannia Stadium.

No English Premier League side lower than fifth has lost fewer home games than Stoke and Mark Hughes, who succeeded long-serving Tony Pulis during the close season, has not received due credit for the job that he has performed with the Potters. Stoke is playing nicer football under Hughes than it did under Pulis and it is on course to post its highest league finish since coming fifth 39 years ago.

It is to one’s benefit that the world and his wife is not on board the Stoke train because, if they were up to speed with the Potters, bookmakers would not be offering such nice odds about them beating a Newcastle team that is in freefall.

Newcastle has lost four of its last five English Premier League matches, failing to score in losses to Fulham (0-1 away), Everton (0-3 home), Southampton (0-4 away) and Manchester United (0-4 home). Newcastle’s form since Yohan Cabaye walked out to join Paris Saint-Germain has not been that of a top-10 team and, if the end of the season were not one month away, Magpies boss Alan Pardew would be short odds not to make it through to the conclusion of the campaign.

One should not be put off by the raw result of the reverse English Premier League fixture that Newcastle won 5-1. Stoke was leading 1-0 before Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson received red cards five minutes and two minutes before half time respectively. The two incidents transformed the game.

Crystal Palace will leapfrog Aston Villa on the English Premier League ladder if it wins the Selhurst Park match between the sides and the Eagles are attractively priced at odds of 2.20 with Totesport to do precisely that.

Christian Benteke’s ruptured Achilles tendon robs Aston Villa of its most dangerous attacking weapon and it is no coincidence that the Villans have been at their best when the Belgium striker has been leading their forward line. Unfortunately, Benteke’s season has been interrupted by several injuries and Aston Villa has struggled to score whenever the big man has been watching from the stands.

Benteke was absent when Aston Villa lost the reverse English Premier League fixture 0-1 on Boxing Day and Crystal Palace, buoyed by back-to-back competition wins over UEFA Champions League semi-finalist Chelsea and Cardiff, could all but secure their top-flight status with a third victory in a row. Crystal Palace has won four of its last seven English Premier League home matches, whereas Aston Villa has won only one of its last seven English Premier League away games and that was at Sunderland when it had a stronger squad.

Finally, backing both teams to score seems the best way to bet on the English Premier League blockbuster between Liverpool and Manchester City that, like all matches in England this weekend, pool v citywill kick off seven minutes later than scheduled in a mark of respect to the 96 Reds supporters who lost their lives seven minutes into the 1989 English FA Cup semi-final tie at Hillsborough in Sheffield 25 years ago.

Manchester City would settle for a draw before kick off at Anfield but the Citizens do not have the personnel to play for a 0-0 scoreline so one can expect them to play their natural, enterprising style. It is three points or bust for Liverpool if it is going to win the English Premier League title so one can expect the Reds to throw caution to the wind and respond to the urgings of the Kop. It has the makings of a classic, end-to-end affair between the competition’s top two scorers and by some margin.

Ladbrokes is offering odds of 1.50 that both Liverpool and Manchester City mark the most eagerly anticipated game of the English Premier League season so far by scoring.

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