This may not look like the most exciting match on paper but there's a strong trend to suggest that we should see a fair few goals here, though you wouldn't want to guess who they're for, says Jamie Pacheco...
''...Let me ask you this: if something has happened nine times out of 10 this season (a decent sample) and nine times in a row, would you bet it at 2.26/5? I would, especially with Stoke’s defence so depleted.''
Stoke v Newcastle
Monday January 1 15:00
Any good strikers fancy moving to the Britannia?
No-one likes a 'told you so' sort of guy...so you're not going to like me very much. But I did flag up at the start of the season that this might be a very tough season for Stoke. They were 7.413/2 for the drop back then and are 4.47/2 now and I still wouldn't put anyone off going with that price. I mentioned the players that they'd lost in that piece and even though loanee Kurt Zouma has been pretty good and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has been ok from amongst the new boys, they're in need of some fresh blood in key areas when the transfer window opens.
As is so often the case with struggling sides, it's upfront that they could really do with a new face. It was always a gamble to invest in the talented but worryingly erratic (both on and off the pitch) Saido Beharino and so far it's a gamble that's gone very wrong. He's had just 365 minutes on the pitch and just one assist to show for his efforts. I've got a huge amount of admiration for Peter Crouch and all that he's achieved throughout his career but it's a bit much to expect him to perform miracles at 36.
To be fair to Mark Hughes, he's been a little unlucky with injuries of late. Ryan Shawcross, Erik Pieters, Bruno Martins Indi and Glen Johnson, all of whom would probably make his first choice XI, have been out injured.
Shelvey sale could fund a new signing
When I previewed Newcastle's game against Brighton a couple of days ago I mentioned Rafa Benitez needed some new signings, too.
Apparently, West Ham are in for Jonjo Shelvey and maybe that wouldn't be a bad deal for all concerned, given Benitez would certainly be able to spend that reported 12 million straight away. He was sent off on the opening day of the season, lost the captain's armband as a result of that and then saw red once again against Everton a few weeks back. Newcastle fans could be forgiven for losing patience with him and he's probably had enough of Newcastle, too.
Their point against Brighton could possibly save them come May but it's a worrying state of affairs for them when the Seagulls had more possession, corners and shots on target than them despite the Geordies being at home.
Stoke's excellent head-to-head record
At first glance the 2.285/4 on Stoke is preposterously short for a side who's been remarkably inconsistent of late and is just one point ahead of their opponents. But there's a reason for that price. They've beaten this lot in all of the last four times they've hosted them.
But still. We can't be going with that price on a team who's just been spanked 5-0 at Chelsea and is missing so many key defenders.
The 'sit on the fence' draw is probably the best option in this market at 3.65 but we can surely find better bets than that.
Plenty of goals at the Britannia
If you were to consider those last four matches between these two (they finished 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 2-1) and Newcastle's recent matches (0-0, 0-1, 3-2, 0-1, 0-1) then you might think I'm crazy for suggesting over 2.5 goals here. But there's one key stat that trumps all of those.
9 of the 10 matches played at the Britannia this season have had over 2.5 goals and that includes all of the last nine given that it was their first game of the season here that didn't- a 1-0 win over Arsenal.
That run has included such results as a standard 2-1 win over Swansea, an entertaining 2-2 draw with Leicester and a bizarre 3-0 defeat to West Ham. One way or another, there are always goals here. Now, I know there's an element of the arbitrary in terms of deciding which stats we give most importance to but let me ask you this: if something has happened nine times out of 10 this season (a decent sample) and nine times in a row, would you bet it at 2.26/5? I will, especially with Stoke's defence so depleted.
Ref Watch- Quiet afternoon for Chris?
Chris Kavanagh is the man in the middle. He's shown 49 yellows and a red in 15 games he's refereed this season. That's not many and only 20% of Newcastle's away games and 10% of Stoke's home games have gone over 45 bookings points so despite the importance of this game, it could pay to go low on bookings here.
Staked: 28.5 pts
Returned: 27.35 pts
P and L: -1.15