CHAMPIONSHIP fan Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) oversees Monday night's action as West Brom meet Stoke at The Hawthorns.
West Brom v Stoke City | Monday 21st January 2020, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Championship league leaders West Brom look to extend their lead at the top of the table after Leeds slipped up at QPR on Saturday.
Stoke have their heads above the water and there has been a vast improvement since Michael O’Neill took over. But if they want to climb the table, their away form will need to improve. It’s just one win in their last five on the road with four defeats – all by a single goal, so once again this could come down to fine margins.
The Potters have picked up 11 points in their last seven games (W3, D2 L2), while over the same period West Brom have nine (W1, D5, L1). Slaven Bilic’s hosts haven’t won in their last five in the league with four draws, so as ever, the first goal will be crucial to settle any nerves.
Don’t fall into the table trap
Many will back West Brom on the emphasis of the table, however, many metrics point out how Stoke are underachieving.
The Potters have an Expected Goals (xG) score of 1.4xG compared to West Brom’s 1.58xG – so not much to separate the sides there. While the Baggies have a slightly higher Expected Goals Against – 1.28xGA v 1.16xGA.
As a Stoke fan, one thing has been noticeable this season – the number of times our opponents have scored from their first shot on target – that’s why Stoke are in this predicament. When you look at shots conceded per game, then Stoke have only allowed 9.3, which is the joint-second best with Leeds – only Brentford (8.8) have conceded fewer.
West Brom are middle of this metric with an average of 12.1 shots allowed per-game and that’s part of the reason to why they have only kept five clean sheets – the same amount as sides as the wrong end of the table, like Stoke, Wigan and Huddersfield.
Both Teams To Score (4/5 Marathon) will appeal on those figures, especially with it winning in 12/13 games here at The Hawthorns, while it’s worth noting that Stoke have scored the opening goals in four of their last five away games.
The betting angles
It’s a tough one on the outrights, with West Brom seemingly having a wobble and it being a case of which Stoke turn up. A few more bookies are pricing up some player props markets in the Championship, so I’m looking at Stoke’s talisman James McClean to cause plenty of problems.
McClean been rejuvenated under O’Neill and his direct play causes opposition defenders problems. Not only that, but he does like to shoot on sight. The Republic of Ireland international has recorded two or more shots in four of his last six games, so the 6/5 with Betfair does have legs.
McClean would be the one to look at, especially with Stoke’s top scorer Sam Clucas sitting a bit deeper in the last few games. His late bursts into the box have not been as frequent, plus Clucas is also a shorter price than McClean.
There is one man for the hosts that I look at when it comes to notching and I’m doing so once again. Semi Ajayi is well worth a bet in the anytime market at 9/1 with Unibet. The central defender is chalked up at 6/1 in most places, so this price appeals.
The 26-year-old has netted four goals this season with three of those coming here at The Hawthorns. Plus, he’s had a shot in six of his last nine league games – that’s part of the reason Sky Bet are 8/11 for him to have a solitary shot.
With the Baggies averaging around 6.5 corners per home game, then they’ll have the opportunity to throw the ball into the Stoke box. Bilic’s side have notched 12 goals from set-pieces this season – only Birmingham (14) have scored more.
While West Brom are strong at attacking set-pieces, Stoke have been dubious of late. Four of the last five goals the Potters have conceded have been from either corners (3) or a free-kick (1) flung into their box. Put all this together and that 9/1 looks rather tempting.
Tim Robinson is the referee and his two games involving Stoke have seen the opposition awarded penalties – including one to West Brom in the reverse fixture. That could be an angle to look at with the tricky nature of Matheus Pereira.
With both teams to score looking a tempting price that is worth considering, but these two bets look very well-priced.