Mike Norman previews this Saturday's Premier League 3pm kick-offs and he makes no apologies for once again rowing in with frequently underrated Stoke to win on home soil...
"So the reality is that Hughes' men are sixth in the table on home results alone, whereas Fulham's only away victories have come at Aston Villa, Norwich, and Sunderland, three of the bottom five in the table, and at Crystal Palace, who were in the relegation zone at the time the sides met."
The wheels have seemingly fallen off at Aston Villa and the club has little momentum going into the last few games of the season.
But what Paul Lambert must be telling his men right up until kick-off here is that their Premier League survival is in their own hands, and quite comfortably in their own hands too. Three points (and very possibly, less than three) will keep Villa in the top flight, and Saturday's opponents Hull represent their best chance of getting those points.
The Tigers are all but mathematically safe. Fulham and Cardiff can't overtake Steve Bruce's men and only two wins for Norwich - against Chelsea and Arsenal - would put the Canaries on more points than what Hull have already.
Obviously there'll be pressure at Villa Park on Saturday but I'm sure Lambert's men would rather face a side with 'little' to play for than a team fighting for their lives, and as Opta tell us, Villa have a superb recent record against the Tigers.
Villa have won four and lost none of their last five league meetings with Hull, keeping a clean sheet in all five games, while Bruce's men have failed to score a single goal against Aston Villa in more than 720 minutes of football.
Historical stats can mean very little in football but on this occasion Villa will surely see themselves as being Hull's bogey side, and with the home team's immense need for a win I can see Lambert's men getting across the line.
Recommended Bet: Back Aston Villa to Win @ 2.568/5
The call for Ryan Giggs to be given the Manchester United job has snowballed since the Red Devils thrashed Norwich last Saturday and he's now clear second favourite on the Betfair exchange at around 13.012/1.
I'm all for Giggs being given a chance - in fact I think with some experienced coaching staff to assist him he'd be a great choice - but give him the job because it's right, not because his team thrashed a side destined for relegation in his first game in charge.
No doubt the cry for Giggs to be given the job will be even greater if United beat Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, and although they are by far the most likely side to emerge with the three points I'm not in the slightest interested in backing them to do so at just 1.351/3. Even less so given the Black Cats' recent form.
It's been a remarkable turnaround for Gus Poyet's men; eight goals scored in their last three outings, two of which were away at Manchester City and Chelsea, is a brilliant achievement and I'm backing them to continue scoring at Old Trafford.
Opta tell us that Sunderland have scored in all but one of their last 10 Premier League away games so consider backing both sides to get on the scoresheet at just below even money.
Recommended Bet: Back Both Teams to Score @ 1.9210/11
Considering Newcastle have scored just two goals in their last eight games, and Cardiff are a poor side who have scored just 12 goals away from home all season, then I'm quite staggered to see Under 2.5 Goals available to back at 2.35/4.
Over 2.5 Goals can be backed at 1.728/11 and I have to keep looking to see that I'm not reading the odds wrong - I really would have expected Unders to be the odds-on favourite and Overs to be the outsider. But there you go.
Perhaps layers are thinking that Newcastle won't be as bad as they have been of late and that they are sure to improve in their final two games. Or maybe they're thinking that because Cardiff are fighting for their lives then this will be an open affair with both sides going for the win. I can see both arguments but I'm certainly not willing to wager on any of them at such short odds.
If anything I can see Alan Pardew's woes continuing - his side looked completely disinterested against Arsenal on Monday night. I was really tempted to back Cardiff then, but simply because I think the odds are wrong I'll take a chance on Under 2.5 Goals.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.35/4
Stoke still have plenty to play for given that they are currently occupying 10th in the table just two points behind hapless Newcastle. To finish in the top 10 would be a great achievement for Mark Hughes in his first season at the Britannia Stadium.
So not for the first time I'm making the Potters my best bet of the day, and it's all down to their price. Why they aren't odds-on against a Fulham side who have been generally poor away from home is a mystery.
Again, I'm going to hazard a guess that layers are thinking because Fulham need a win then their chances are increased. That's simply not the case at this level. The Cottagers will be giving their all for certain, but so too will Stoke with that top-10 finish to aim for.
So the reality is that Hughes' men are sixth in the table on home results alone, whereas Fulham's only away victories have come at Aston Villa, Norwich, and Sunderland, three of the bottom five in the table, and at Crystal Palace, who were in the relegation zone at the time the sides met. In other words, the Bluebirds have really struggled when they've travelled to a decent home side.
Stoke have lost just twice at the Britannia Stadium, one against Liverpool and the other being last week to Spurs. They've seen off the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United on home soil and I'm very confident that they can beat Cardiff too.
Recommended Bet: Back Stoke to Win @ 2.3611/8 (best bet)
I really expect to see goals in this game, not least because Swansea very rarely fail to score at the Liberty Stadium - Opta tell us that Garry Monk's men have scored in 16 of their 18 league home games this season, which is equal to Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City no less.
Swansea are also the top-scoring side in the bottom half of the table and they should be in confident mood after securing their Premier League status thanks to back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Aston Villa, scoring six goals in the process.
Southampton have seemingly nothing to play for but as I've mentioned a few times they have at least three England players - not to mention players from other nations - who are on the fringe of a World Cup call-up and for that reason alone we should expect to see them playing to their potential and giving their all.
So with two slick passing sides in opposition, both of whom are not the greatest defensively, expect a lot of chances to be created and keep your fingers crossed for at least three goals to be scored.
Recommended Bet: Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.9620/21