Stoke v West Brom: Take a risk and stand with Hughes in last-chance saloon

Mark Hughes needs an instant reaction from his players if he is to avoid the sack before Christmas
Mark Hughes needs an instant reaction from his players if he is to avoid the sack before Christmas

Andrew Atherley reckons Stoke's beleaguered boss can earn a reprieve for now in Saturday's crucial clash between the teams in 17th and 19th...

"You would expect he would have read the riot act this week but his days will surely be numbered if the players don't go out and fight for him on Saturday."

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Back Stoke to win at 2.3611/8

Stoke v West Brom
Saturday 23 December, 15:00

Hughes clinging on

Both teams are struggling to shake off a malaise that stems back well into last season and Stoke have won only seven of their 30 matches since the start of March.

That has left Mark Hughes clinging to his job in the run-up to Christmas and favourite to be the next manager to leave his position.

Winless for Pardew

Like Stoke, West Brom have been on a bad run since the start of March and theirs is even worse, with just three wins out of 30.

Whereas Stoke have stuck with Hughes, the Baggies opted for a change of manager last month but any hopes of a quick boost from Alan Pardew's arrival have been dashed and the new boss is still looking for a first win after four games in charge.

Positives hard to find

This is a tricky game to assess given the lack of positives on both sides.

A starting point is their form against fellow strugglers, which we can say is every team in the bottom half (from Huddersfield down).

Stoke's overall record against bottom-half teams is W2 D2 L3 and they weren't doing too badly at home until last week's calamitous 3-0 defeat by West Ham, having had two wins and a draw from three previous home games in that category.

The big question is whether Hughes can get a response from his team after the West Ham result. You would expect he would have read the riot act this week but his days will surely be numbered if the players don't go out and fight for him on Saturday.

Hughes's problems have been a long time in the making and he has failed to rectify a terrible defensive record that has left them with the most goals against (39) and the worst goal difference (-20) in the Premier League.

West Brom's record against bottom-half teams is W1 D4 L4 but the most pertinent point is that their record is abysmal on the road, having lost all four trips in that category.

The other big factor with Pardew's team is whether they have the scoring capacity to take advantage of Stoke's weaknesses.

They have scored just four goals in nine away games this season and their away record for the whole of 2017 is W1 D7 L11, with blanks in nine of those 19 matches.

It's a risk whichever way you play but on balance Stoke have a bit more to recommend them, as long there is no repeat of last week's calamity.

Overs too big

The reverse fixture ended 1-1 in late August - which seems an awful long time ago for these two clubs - and the Baggies have continued in a similar vein, with 12 of their 18 matches having under 2.5 goals. That includes three out of four under 2.5 goals since Pardew took charge.

Stoke's defence has become so leaky that they have the second-highest rate of games with over 2.5 goals behind only Manchester City. Thirteen of their 18 games have gone that way, including seven of the last eight.

Expectation might be in favour of a tight game in such a crucial relegation battle, with under 2.5 goals priced at 1.635/8, but it's not that clear cut.

Overs looks too big at 2.3411/8, although like most options in this match there is a high degree of risk.

Ref Watch

Neil Swarbrick is in his eighth season in the Premier League and overall has tended towards the higher end of the bookings counts, although this season six of his 11 matches have had two or fewer bookings and the maximum has been four (in three games).


Opta Stat

Alan Pardew has won eight Premier League games against Stoke City - including each of his last four - the most he has won against a current top-flight side. West Brom are 3.613/5 to win here.

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2017/18 P/L

Staked: 19 pts
Returned: 26.41 pts
P/L: +7.41 pts

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