Last season's meetings produced a glut of cards and Andrew Atherley says it could be more of the same at the Britannia on Saturday...
"Both teams will want to show some fight for their fans, making for a feisty encounter, and the bookings make-up looks set to be on the high side again."
Stoke v West Brom
Saturday 24 September, 15:00
Things go from bad to worse for Stoke, who are bottom of the Premier League and on Wednesday night were knocked out of the EFL Cup in a home defeat by Hull.
The cup exit may turn out to be a blessing as they can now concentrate on rectifying their form in the league after taking just one point from their opening five matches.
Last season they finished ninth after being third-bottom at this stage with two points, so it should not be panic stations just yet, especially as Mark Hughes has never finished outside the top ten in a full season as a Premier League manager.
With a long-term form slump leading to supporter unrest, the outlook seemed bleak for West Brom before last week's thumping 4-2 home win over West Ham.
That took the Baggies to 10th in the table and has bought Tony Pulis some time to achieve a long-lasting turnaround. How they perform in their next two games - away to bottom two Stoke and Sunderland - will be crucial because they will face a tough run of fixtures after the October international break.
Pulis did the double over his former club last season, winning 1-0 at the Britannia in August during Stoke's slow start and then 2-1 at the Hawthorns in January.
Notwithstanding West Brom's four-goal rush last week, both teams have problems scoring goals. Before that the Baggies had managed only two in their first four league games, while Stoke have scored just three goals in five matches.
There is a double whammy for Hughes because his team is shipping a lot of goals (14 already) and there is a theory that their normally robust defence has been compromised by worries over the tougher rules on fouling at set pieces.
Hughes's record indicates he will sort out the defence, but the attack was a concern before the start of the season and even more so now. It is difficult to back them for a win with such a low-scoring attack - they have scored more than once in just one of their last 11 league games, going back to early April.
West Brom have a similar scoring record, especially on the road. Last season they managed only 14 goals in 19 away games and they are heavily reliant on keeping a clean sheet to get anything on the road - W5 D2 L0 since the start of last season, compared with W0 D6 L8 when they have conceded.
A win to nil looks the best way to back West Brom as eight of their 12 wins (including all five away wins) since the start of last season have come that way. A West Brom win to nil is available at 4.84/1.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
It is not surprising that under 2.5 goals is 1.774/5 given the doubts over the scoring prowess on both sides.
Last season both teams ranked in the bottom six for the average number of goals in their matches and West Brom were right at the bottom with a paltry average of 2.16 goals scored in their games, with 24 out of 38 (63%) having under 2.5 goals.
This season West Brom are similar (2.2 goals average in their games) but Stoke's defensive frailties have pushed up their average to 3.4. Much will depend on whether Hughes has been successful on the training ground this week in tightening up his defence.
Martin Atkinson, now in his 13th season in the Premier League, is one of the most experienced officials. His bookings index is around average, but his red-card count is low (just one issued in 29 games last season, joint-lowest among referees who took charge of 10 or more matches).
Even with Atkinson in charge, a sending-off is worth considering as a bet given the importance of set-pieces to both sides and the fact that both of last season's meetings had red cards. Those two matches had bookings make-ups of 100 and 45.
Both teams will want to show some fight for their fans, making for a feisty encounter, and the bookings make-up looks set to be on the high side again. Go for 45pts and over on the bookings odds at 1.910/11.
Back 45pts and over on the bookings odds at 1.910/11
Tony Pulis has won all four of his Premier League meetings against his former club, once with Crystal Palace and three with West Brom. The Baggies are 3.412/5 to give him another victory.
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