High-flying Stoke entertain recently-relegated West Brom in Friday night's televised Championship clash. Mark O'Haire shares his favourite fancy...
"Albion are already projecting as an automatic promotion candidate with the visitors’ early season numbers difficult to ignore"
Stoke v West Brom
Friday October 1, 19:45
Stoke impress at Deepdale
Stoke boss Michael O'Neill took plenty of positives from Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Preston, but admitted his side must stop conceding easy free-kicks to let points slip away. The Potters were dominant in a superb opening period that saw City take the lead with a brilliant Nick Powell header from a Josh Tymon cross.
But Stoke couldn't find a second and paid the price when they conceded a foul just outside their own area, with Ben Whiteman stroking home the equaliser. O'Neill's outfit upped the ante again in the second half but Preston, inspired by goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, held firm for a share of the spoils despite City winning the shot count 21-9 at Deepdale.
Post-match, O'Neill was asked if it was two points dropped and he said: "It's always a point gained away from home but it does feel a little like two lost because I felt we were the dominant team for the majority of the game. The first 35 minutes I thought we were brilliant, some of our play. We should have been more than two ahead."
O'Neill will be forced into at least one change to his starting XI on Friday night with Romaine Sawyers ineligible to play against his parent club. Meanwhile, Sam Clucas is suspended.
West Brom run riot in Cardiff
West Brom showcased their potential with a timely reminder of their quality when swatting aside Cardiff 4-0 in a comprehensive away victory in Wales on Tuesday night. Goals from Karlan Grant, Alex Mowatt, Matt Phillips and an own-goal from Curtis Nelson saw the Baggies pick up a deserved and dominant three points, making it two triumphs on the spin.
Albion's overall team performance left fans delighted as Valerien Ismael's side kept the ball on the deck and opted for a more possession-based game in the capital. In doing so, the visitors restricted Cardiff to zero shots on-target and enjoyed 60% of the ball with Ismael gushing in his praise post-match as WBA kept their unbeaten Championship record intact.
Ismael said, "We knew tonight the main focus was to get the ball down. We set the tone in the game and we moved the ball quickly. All the goals were brilliant, it showed the confidence and mentality in the team. We are now moving more towards my vision for this team. I want us to stay confident and move further in the right direction."
Curiously, the past three meetings between Stoke and West Brom have been won by the away side, with the Potters in particular often toiling when taking on the Baggies in Staffordshire. The hosts have returned just W2-D4-L4 over their past 10 renewals of this fixture on home soil, with three of those losses arriving in the most recent five match-ups.
Stoke 3.1511/5 have made a solid start to the new season (W5-D3-L2), comfortably sitting inside the top-six with their only defeats arriving on the road. Underlying performance data metrics also point to Michael O'Neill's men as a top-six outfit, with the Potters ranked fifth for both non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) ratio, and shots in the box ratio.
West Brom 2.447/5 are still unbeaten under Valerien Ismael's watch with the Baggies boasting a W6-D4-L0 return. Albion are already projecting as an automatic promotion candidate with the visitors' early season numbers difficult to ignore. WBA sit inside the top-three for almost every meaningful data-point with Ismael suggesting his side will only get better from here.
Only three of the last 12 head-to-head showdowns between Stoke and West Brom have featured Over 2.5 Goals 2.001/1 and the market is again anticipating a close contest on Friday night. Collectively, 11 (55%) of the duos combined 20 Championship clashes this term have produced three or more goals, with 12 (60%) paying-out for Both Teams To Score backers.
The non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) figures of both sides this suggests there could be a touch of value in supporting a goals-based angle here. However, I'm happy to take a Bet Builder approach by marrying Over 1.5 Goals together with West Brom Double Chance for an appealing 1.768/11 shot on the Sportsbook.
This selection sees us profit should the Baggies win 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, or the match ends in a score draw. It's been the correct wager in eight of Albion's 10 league encounters since Valerien Ismael arrived, whilst Stoke were well beaten in their toughest test of the campaign thus far, away at Fulham (0-3) at the end of August.
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