High-flying Stoke entertain Barnsley in Wednesday night's televised Championship tussle. Mark O'Haire shares his favourite fancy.
"The hosts have enjoyed dominant victories against Reading and Nottingham Forest here and will fancy their prospects of extending a fine winning streak on home soil"
Stoke extend strong start
Matty Pearson's own goal gifted all three points as Stoke came from behind to beat Huddersfield on Saturday and climb to third in the Championship table.
After a goalless first half, Town took just two second-half minutes to break the deadlock, putting the Potters on the back foot. But, within three minutes, Jacob Brown headed home to equalise from Mario Vrancic's corner. And it was from another Vrancic cross that saw City maintain their 100% home record this season as Pearson diverted the ball into his own.
Stoke (W4-D1-L1) are now enjoying their best start to a league campaign for 17 years and boss Michael O'Neill was naturally delighted post-match, saying: "We're delighted with the result, clearly. We had to be patient. I don't think we were at our best but we showed enough to win the game."
Romaine Sawyer made his first Championship start for the Potters in midfield as the Stoke squad stars to take shape following the closure of the transfer window. James Chester and Danny Batth didn't even make the bench at the weekend but O'Neill isn't expected to make major changes to his XI here as City chase a sixth successive home success.
Barnsley fail to fire at Bournemouth
New Barnsley boss Markus Schopp admitted the Tykes' 3-0 weekend loss at Bournemouth was "not good enough" but believes his players will learn from the experience. The Reds conceded early in both halves against the Cherries, who dominated the majority of the match and allowed the visitors just two efforts at goal and zero shots on-target.
Speaking post-match, Schopp said: "I am really disappointed. We started really well but our transition moments and possession were not good enough to compete with a really good team. The first sequence that Bournemouth created something we went 1-0 down then the same in the second half and we didn't have to power to come back from that."
Left wing-back Ben Williams came off after half an hour with an ankle injury and is now a major doubt for Wednesday, although Josh Benson could be available after returning to training. Claudio Gomes and Aaron Leya Iseka both made their debuts off the bench at Bournemouth and Schopp is expected to ring the changes ahead of the trip to Stoke.
Stoke have suffered a solitary defeat across their last eight home league encounters with Barnsley dating back over the past 28 years (W4-D3-L1). The Potters did do the double over the Reds in the 2019/20 campaign but only picked up one point in last season's Championship showdowns, including playing out an enjoyable 2-2 draw here.
Stoke 1.875/6 weren't at their best against Huddersfield here on Saturday yet still ground out top honours and Michael O'Neill's men have largely impressed during the early stages of the season. The hosts have enjoyed dominant victories against Reading and Nottingham Forest here and will fancy their prospects of extending a fine winning streak on home soil.
Barnsley 5.004/1 have endured a difficult opening stanza under Markus Schopp. The Tykes were always going to find matching their 2020/21 exploits difficult and the Reds have returned W1-D3-L2 thus far. However, all six of the visitors' opponents this term currently reside in the top-half of the table, highlighting the difficult start faced by Schopp's side.
The Championship is averaging 2.64 goals per-game coming into the midweek round of action, a sizeable increase on last season's dour totals. A healthy 53% of fixtures have featured Over 2.5 Goals with half of the 12 collective contests involving Stoke and Barnsley delivering a minimum of three strikes. A repeat can be supported at 2.226/5 quotes.
But rather than support a goals-based option, I'm happy to take the 3.4012/5 available on Stoke to succeed by exactly one goal this midweek. Going back to the beginning of last term, the Potters have posted 12 league victories as hosts with 10 of those triumphs arriving by the one-goal margin, including all three of City's home league victories in 2021/22.
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