WLB boss Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies ahead of Saturday’s early Premier League kick-off between Stoke and Crystal Palace.
Stoke v Crystal Palace | Saturday 5th May 2018, 12:30 | Sky Sports
Stoke boss Paul Lambert says keeping the club in the Premier League would be “up there” with winning the Champions League as a player. The former Borussia Dortmund star was the surprise appointment by the Potters in mid-January with City sitting in 18th, a point away from safety.
Coming into this weekend, Stoke are entrenched in 19th, three points from safety with two games left. The hosts are enduring their longest winless top-flight run since 1984 (W0-D7-L5) and haven’t tasted success since the Scot’s first fixture in charge against fellow strugglers Huddersfield on 20 January.
It’s fair to say progress hasn’t really been made under Lambert’s watch. Performances have improved ever so slightly but results haven’t followed; although Stoke are playing with no lack of effort, determination or organisation, their dearth of goals could cost them their Premier League status.
Although fortunate to escape Anfield with a point last time out, the Potters have shared the spoils in each of their past three outings but only managed to score seven goals across their 12-match winless run. They’ve not notched twice in a match since January and only once netted three times – against rock-bottom West Brom.
As you can probably imagine, I’m not exactly rushing to support the Potteries club here. The home side have needed a win for a while and it hasn’t arrived – they’ve accumulated just six all season – which makes it hard to expect them to find the right formula just because their situation is now so desperate.
Roy’s boys deserve real recognition
If Stoke have been meandering towards the second-tier, Crystal Palace have been looking up ever since Roy Hodgson returned to his boyhood club. Ridiculed for their pointless and winless start – the Eagles had to wait until mid-October for their first points and goals – the Londoners have been a revelation since.
The turnaround has been quite remarkable, so much so that I firmly believe the ex-England boss should be considered in the Manager of the Year debate. The capital club have W9-D11-L9 under Hodgson’s tutelage, suffering only two defeats against non-Big Six clubs (W8-D10-L2).
The visitors head to Staffordshire on the back of successive home triumphs and an 11-point haul from their past six matches (W3-D2-L1) – the only reverse in that run came against Liverpool. Of course, last time out they slaughtered Leicester 5-0 and whilst not yet mathematically safe, I expect them to show up here.
And it might not take much to pinch maximum points. Palace have scored in 14 of their last 16 matches in all competitions, as well as in 10 of their last 11 away games stretching back to pre-Christmas. A goal at the Bet365 Stadium should be enough to at least earn the guests a share of the spoils.
The betting angles
Crystal Palace have picked up 16 points more than Stoke during the period under Roy Hodgson and their outstanding efforts against non-Big Six clubs make the Eagles an excellent proposition at 14/19 (BetVictor) off a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap line.
This selection would see us make money should the visitors avoid defeat – a half-stakes profit should the encounter end all-square and a full-stakes pay-out should Palace pick up a victory.
Stoke beat Arsenal in their opening home game but since then all four of their wins here have come over bottom-five clubs as they’ve returned just W0-D5-L8 against the rest of the division. Bruno Martins Indi will also miss out.
Meanwhile, supporting Luka Milivojevic to score at anytime (4/1 Bet365) might be worth a wee wager. The Eagles’ penalty taker – Crystal Palace have earned a league-high 10 penalties – has scored six in his last nine away days, whilst six of his last eight goals have also come on his travels.