STRUGGLING Stoke host high-flying West Brom on Monday night and Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees the Championship contest, picking out his best bet.
Stoke v West Brom | Monday 4th November 2019, 20:00 | Sky Sports
When you want footballing chaos you can trust Stoke to provide some – that’s after they sacked Nathan Jones on Friday, and then on Saturday, got accused of tapping up Preston’s manager Alex Neil.
Jones’ turbulent nine-month tenure came to an end following consecutive defeats against Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall leaving the Potters 23rd in the Championship table.
It all means former players Rory Delap and Kevin Russell take caretaker charge for this one against top of the table West Brom. But with Barnsley and Wigan to come, Stoke fans will be wanting a new man in place ahead of those two important fixtures.
Slaven Bilic didn’t look to have the attacking options that James Shan had when West Brom crashed out of the play-offs on penalties in May.
Charlie Austin and Matheus Pereira have come in to replace those who have departed, and have done a job with aplomb. Pereira has already been involved in eight goals – he’s netted three and assisted five others. He’s 7/2 to record another assist here with Sky Bet, and he’s one likely to see plenty of the ball in the attacking third.
But one of the shrewdest signings in summer was their purchase of Romain Sawyers. The metronomic midfielder can dictate possession and comfortable on the ball in any area of the pitch. He ranks third for completed passes in the division, and in West Brom’s last five matches, he comes on top for accurate passes.
His figures in those games have been: 55 passes, 63 passes, 75 passes, 84 passes and 80 passes, but sadly no bookies want to price up this market in the Championship.
Generally, the Baggies have been stronger in the second half of away games with seven of their nine goals scored after the break. That could be of interest in-play with Stoke shipping plenty then too.
The betting angles
West Brom came out on top of both meetings last season with Dwight Gayle netting all three of their goals. Those came in a 1-0 win here and a 2-1 victory at the Hawthorns, so even though the Potters will be delighted not to see Gayle in opposition, there are still plenty of threats in this visiting side.
Stoke’s managerial change may see them look to be more resilient, so this could be quite a tight affair, and with West Brom grinding out results on the road, then a narrow margin of victory has to be considered.
Home defeats against Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield all came by a solitary goal for Stoke, as did their recent defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, where a Liam Lindsay error proved costly. Throw in that three of West Brom’s four away wins have all been by one goal, so I do have to go against my own here, and say that a narrow Baggies win makes sense.
Stoke could follow a similar game plan that brought success against Fulham – sit tight and compact with the visitors allowed to dominate the ball. That means plenty of work for the midfielders. Badou Ndiaye is a dominant force in the middle of the park and made four tackles in each of their recent away defeats – the same here is 5/4 with Sky Bet.
But it’s his teammate Sam Clucas that goes about his business in a quieter fashion. He gets around the pitch and his late runs into the box can cause opponents problems, but he does get stuck in. He was the top tackler in the Fulham win (6), while he made three each against Sheffield Wednesday and Millwall.
The 29-year-old is likely to have a busy evening in the engine room, so given his work rate and effectiveness in the tackle, the price looks right for him to make three or more tackles.