FRESH from a fabulous 14/1 winner on Saturday, Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Wednesday night's Championship contest from Deepdale as Preston host Stoke.
Preston v Stoke | Wednesday 21st August 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Stoke were tipped by a few at the start of the season but it’s been a slow start for the Potters, who picked up their first point on Saturday in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Derby.
Preston lost 3-2 at Swansea, but their only league victory thus far did come here at Deepdale with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Wigan.
Between the sides they’ve only picked up four points from a possible 18, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the way either side has played.
Does the table lie?
Despite languishing at the foot of the table, Stoke have been unlucky not to collect more points. It’s the lack of cutting edge in the final third that has proved costly.
After the Derby draw, Nathan Jones said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ not to have picked up the three points, and he was right. Despite falling behind early on, the Potters saw Joe Allen spurn a glorious chance when hitting the upright from a couple of yards out. Then with the goal gaping, Tom Ince hit the bar.
Just a week earlier in their 3-1 defeat at Charlton, the Stoke hit the woodwork twice with the game level at 1-1. It’s a question of when the chances created will turn to goals. If the league was decided on hitting the frame of the goal, then Stoke would probably have it wrapped up by now!
Given Preston are 16th and Stoke 24th, you’d assume the duo have struggled in games. That’s untrue. Both sides have recorded higher Expected Goals (xG) counts in two of their three games. For example:
- Charlton 3-1 Stoke – Charlton 0.22xG v Stoke 1.21xG
- Stoke 2-2 Derby – Stoke 1.78xG v Derby 1.50xG
Similar is reflected in Preston’s figures, especially their weekend defeat to Swansea that looks unjust on the xG model, with the Lilywhites also having more shots and more on-target efforts.
- Swansea 3-2 Preston – Swansea 0.77xG v Preston 1.59xG
Wasteful in the final-third
Given those xG figures, it is surprising to both of these sides sitting lowly in the table, but there has been one common denominator – poor finishing. So far, Preston have recorded 38 shots in their three games, but only 10 of them have tested the opposition with five goals scored. It’s even worse for Stoke – the Potters have fired in 43 shots, but just nine have been on-target, resulting in four goals.
That said, the Potters have rattled the woodwork four times, but those are the fine margins that see a side falter or put a run together. With the amount of shots both sides rain down on goal, then I do have to look towards the goals markets in this game.
Stoke’s Achilles heel is how easy they are to counter and create chances against, and that’s highlighted by how sides have punished them. Jones wants Stoke to play on the front foot, but that’s something they’ve been unable to do with the manner in which they’ve conceded and the timings of those goals.
On the opening day, QPR capitalised on a Jack Butland error to score in the 8th minute, Charlton took the lead in the 25th minute, and Derby scored with their first foray forward inside two minutes.
And, it’s fair to say sides have been ruthless against Stoke. QPR scored twice from three shots on-target, Charlton bagged three from three shots on-target, then Derby scored two goals from six on-target, so if Preston keep up that impressive finishing rate, the Potters could be in trouble.
Potential for cards
With two differing systems likely to be played, and these two ranked highly for fouls (Preston 41 and Stoke 42), then John Brooks could be in for a busy evening.
Billy Bodin loves a dribble, and playing down the right could be the key for Preston in exposing James McClean, who is being employed as a left-back for his attacking capabilities.
The Irishman does dive into a tackle or try to get in front of his opponent, giving away daft fouls, so he is one man that could find himself walking a disciplinary tightrope. He’s averaged three tackles in two Championship matches.
Away from the obvious Ben Pearson shout, another would be Ryan Woods who sits at the base of the diamond. He’s impressed in his two starts, and is likely to get the nod ahead of Jordan Cousins.
Woods was carded for a late, no-nonsense foul on Saturday, and the way Stoke can be exposed could see him pick up a tactical caution. Plus, he does go chasing after a heavy touch or stray pass to rectify his mistake, which can see him caught out. He’s 10/3 with bet365 for a caution.
With Bodin and Sean Maguire likely to be switching through the game, then McClean could have his hands full, and that for me is enough is question his positional sense and defensive nous. He's 2/1 (Betfair) to enter the book.
These sides rank highly for shots and in the xG league table, so I’m surprised to see some lofty quotes for an action-packed game at Deepdale. The 6/5 on Over 2.5 Goals with Marathon definitely appeals given how both of these sides like to attack, and Preston’s wingers could work well against the Stoke diamond.
But, I’m more than willing to take it one step further and add Both Teams To Score to get a very enticing 6/4, which is in the Bet365 BetBuilder feature.
It’s landed in all three of Stoke’s games, and they are a side you can counter, something which Derby thrived on, and it nearly resulted in Martyn Waghorn completing his hat-trick.
Lee Gregory and Scott Hogan linked up well against Derby and combined for the second Stoke goal. With their clever runs and movement then they could pose a threat to the Preston backline enough for this punt to provide profit on Wednesday night.