Having backed Stoke at 1.87 to beat Aston Villa, Michael Lintorn is trusting them at another great price against Newcastle...
"The Magpies have endured six defeats on the spin on their travels across all competitions and 11 out of 14 over the entirety of Steve McClaren’s campaign in charge."
Stoke 2.0421/20 v Newcastle 4.3100/30; The Draw 3.55
The next step for Stoke after successive top-half finishes is clearly European qualification, but it appeared as though they had sabotaged their chances by exiting both cups and losing three straight Premier League games 3-0 between January 23 and February 6.
However, with Manchester City's Capital One Cup triumph opening up a sixth European spot in the top flight and the team in possession currently West Ham rather than an established force like Liverpool or Chelsea, wins against Bournemouth and Aston Villa have revived the Potters' challenge.
They are four points adrift in eighth with 11 outings remaining, two of which are at home to the Irons and seventh-placed Southampton, so they have the opportunity to exert pressure on both.
Before those positional squabbles comes a clash with lowly Newcastle which they enter without Ryan Shawcross, Glen Johnson, Marc Wilson and Charlie Adam, although Marc Muniesa, Phil Bardsley and Glenn Whelan are pushing to be passed fit.
The Newcastle squad has improved in 2016 with the additions of Henri Saivet, Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Seydou Doumbia and results have improved a little too with victories over West Ham and West Brom, but their Premier League location has not, with the drop zone still housing them.
The issue is that whereas there has been an upturn in their St James' Park form, prevailing twice in a row for the first time since 2014 and suffering just one loss in six, their road record is getting worse rather than better, having began in a place from which they couldn't really afford any deterioration.
One thing that Newcastle are superior to everyone in the division besides Manchester United at is accumulating injuries. Even with the prospect of Chancel Mbemba, Paul Dummett, Vurnon Anita, Cheick Tiote, Siem de Jong and Aleksandar Mitrovic returning, they are left without the likes of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Kevin Mbabu, Massadio Haidara and Gabriel Obertan.
Having alluded to Newcastle's woeful away figures above, this seems like a logical starting point. The Magpies have endured six defeats on the spin on their travels across all competitions and 11 out of 14 over the entirety of Steve McClaren's campaign in charge.
It isn't simply a McClaren problem though: they were beaten in the final six before he took over in the summer as well, and 11 in 13 in total in the second half of last term. Add that together and you get a truly grotesque picture: 22 reverses in the space of 27 encounters.
Members of the Toon Army trying to find reasons for optimism before commencing their journeys will note that Stoke have won less than half of their 2015/16 fixtures as hosts, with their point-per-game average of 1.54 representing a drop from Mark Hughes' first two seasons as boss.
However, the average is a perfect 3.00 against the bottom six at the Britannia Stadium thanks to wins over Bournemouth, Norwich and Aston Villa. Their record against those struggling clubs has been impressive at all venues - P9 W6 D2 L1 - and the two recent successes which lifted them from 11th to eight were both achieved at the expense of sides in that region of the table.
The Potters came out on top on the past three occasions that they entertained Newcastle - and four of the overall five this decade - so 2.0421/20 looks like a wonderful price on them doing it again.
Both Teams to Score
Stoke haven't kept a clean sheet in five Premier League matches - with all of those goals occurring with skipper Shawcross sidelined - leaking three to each of Leicester, Man United and Everton and even being breached by vulnerable Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
As Newcastle have struck in five of their last six contests, both teams to score appears to be a wise wager at 2.01/1. It can be combined with the home win at odds of 4.3100/30.
Back Stoke to win @ 2.0421/20