Andrew Atherley reckons Stoke can record a first home win of the season over struggling Newcastle in the Monday night match...
"Stoke scored in eight of their 11 home games against teams that finished below them last season and that indicates a decent chance of scoring against Newcastle, who have kept only one clean sheet this season."
Stoke v Newcastle
Monday September 29, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
These teams finished a point apart in ninth and 10th places last season but now Newcastle are languishing at the bottom and Stoke are also towards the wrong end of the table in 13th. Both had morale-boosting midweek away wins in the Carling Cup, however, with Newcastle triumphing 3-2 after extra-time at Crystal Palace and Stoke also coming from a goal down to win 2-1 at Sunderland.
Mark Hughes this week called on his players to turn the Britannia stadium back into the fortress it once was, but that may be easier said than done after their lacklustre start to the season. Lack of goals is the big problem for Stoke and Hughes admits they have lacked the nous to break down visiting defences, which is reflected in two home defeats to nil so far this season.
That is a blow to Hughes, who set out this season hoping to build on a strong foundation at the Britannia (last season Stoke ranked sixth on home form, with only three defeats) by improving their away form. To a significant extent, he has done that on the road with victory at Manchester City, draws at Hull and QPR and the cup win at Sunderland, yet at the same time the home form has dipped. But it is fair to say that, while losing at home to Aston Villa and Leicester would have been regarded as poor results at the start of the season, they do not look quite so bad in view of those teams' form.
Alan Pardew has also had a goals issue, going right back to the departure of top midfielder Yohan Cabaye in the January transfer window. Newcastle's goals-per-minute ratio worsened markedly after that and so did their points return, especially on the road. There was finally some relief on the injury front in his front line when Papiss Cisse came off the bench to save a point - and possibly Pardew's job - with two goals at home to Hull last week.
That sort of spark has been missing and it is a worry for Pardew that he may have to make do without Cisse again if the striker has not recovered from the illness that struck him down in midweek, along with Yoan Gouffran and Tim Krul.
Pardew has another problem too: how to stop a run of four straight defeats in Monday-night games (with 12 goals conceded).
There could be a class factor at play in Stoke's early results because their only blanks came against Villa and Leicester and they have scored against all the lower-placed teams they have faced (as well, of course, as in their standout 1-0 win at Manchester City). They scored in eight of their 11 home games against teams that finished below them last season (that is, outside the top eight - with the three blanks all coming early in Hughes's reign) and that indicates a decent chance of scoring against Newcastle, who have kept only one clean sheet this season and have lost the last six Premier League games in which they have conceded (including 1-0 at Stoke in April).
Stoke's record when scoring at the Britannia is W10 D3 L1 under Hughes (W7 D1 L0 against teams outside last season's top eight), so much appears to hinge on whether they can find the net at home for the first time this season. Since Cabaye left, Newcastle have had a poor W1 D2 L7 record on the road and they have failed to score in eight of those 10 games, including on both away trips in the league this season. In that wider context, the 4-0 collapse at Southampton in their last away game was hardly out of character and, while Pardew will demand a reaction from that performance, he is far from certain to get it.
Whichever side you choose to back, there is an element of taking things on trust but on balance Stoke have more going for them. Their disappointing run of form has been much shorter than Newcastle's and it is possible to argue that they are good value at 2.166/5 if they can get close to their normal level at home for Hughes.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
With goals in short supply for both sides, it is obvious to look at under 2.5 goals at 1.728/11. Stoke's overall figures certainly lend support. Last season Hughes's side ranked joint-fourth for home matches with under 2.5 goals (12 out of 19) and both home games this season have gone that way. Newcastle's scoring figures tend to fluctuate much more, reflecting their seemingly hot-and-cold runs of form, but one factor this season is that they have conceded at least two goals in four of their five league games (as well as in normal time of their midweek cup tie at Palace).
In fact, they have conceded two or more goals in 10 of their last 13 league games. Even though Newcastle have contributed little on the road since Cabaye left, six of their 10 away games in that period have gone over 2.5 goals. Although the recent form and morale of both sides makes it unlikely, over 2.5 goals at 2.35/4 cannot be ruled out.
Stoke Win To Nil
This fixture ended 1-0 last season and a similar result would not be unexpected, as Hughes is likely to insist on Stoke keeping things tight and may well find assistance from Newcastle's attack. Four of Stoke's 10 home wins under Hughes have been to nil and, with Newcastle having failed to score in six of their seven away losses since Cabaye's departure, another win to nil for Stoke is worth considering at around 3.55/2.
Back Stoke to beat Newcastle at 2.166/5 (1pt)
Staked: 9 pts
Returned: 8.4 pts
P/L: -0.6 pts