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Stoke City are battling away in the qualification rounds of the Europa League. They did well to earn their spot there by reaching the FA Cup final last season, where they put in one of their worst displays of the season to be outclassed by Man City. Still, their rewards are a place in Europe and that will give boss Tony Pulis a new challenge and something else to get his teeth into. Stoke are a solid enough looking Premier League side. You don’t expect too many fireworks from them in terms of display, but they will battle and work their way through the season, causing upsets and then letting themselves down the very next game. Are capable of building a good run, and they should pick up enough points to maintain their status. The question about Stoke is whether or not they are just going to tread water from last season, or whether somehow they can find improvement and progression from somewhere.
Well Stoke boss Tony Pulis is no stranger to criticism. He drew a lot of attention last season from the likes of Arsene Wenger, who didn’t enjoy Stoke’s direct tactics. The thing about Stoke, is that they may not do things the beautiful way, but they seem to get the job at hand done well enough to keep them as a mid table safety team. There has been speculation about Stoke City taking the plunge and trying to get West Ham’s Scott Parker on board. Parker has been in demand even before West Ham got relegated, with several top teams all chasing his signature. West Ham are holding to their value on Parker, and after fellow Hammer Carlton Cole declined a move to the Potteries, Stoke could well come up empty handed. A better deal for them would be to go and snap up Joey Barton from Newcastle who could leave the Tyneside club for free. They have picked up the injury prone Jonathan Woodgate to try and maintain some solidity at the back, and with the squad at the Britannia acquitting themselves quite well last season, we can expect pretty much more of the same from them. This is one instance where you can look past the players and see what a huge influence the manager really is on the side. If Tony Pulis were to part ways, you wonder how well Stoke City would be able to pick up the pieces as this really is all of his work.
Last Season: 13th
A bottom half of the table finished, as they ran out of steam towards the end of the season. Still, they did reach the FA Cup final, and had some pretty good moments through the season. They scrapped and fought tirelessly, with energy abound and surprised many people. Stoke City did put up some impressive home stats, making the Britannia a very difficult place to visit. We can’t see them really being any more expansive than they were last season, but they do need to find a way to score a few more goals.
It will probably be more of the same from Stoke this year. They have not made enough move to really change and get better, nor have they been weakened. They are a pretty tight unit at Stoke, and they need to turn the Britannia Stadium into a fortress again, or risk failure. That will be where the bulk of their points will come from and they should be a good threat in the cups. As for their Premier League projection, you can’t see them being anything more than a mid table team. Sure they may well go on a good run and flirt on the outskirts of European spots, but maintaining that is going to be difficult. Tony Pulis is key here, but one wonders if Stoke will be found out more this season. They are a little one dimensional in their approach and opposing teams may have worked out how to get the best of them based on last season. Still, you can expect hard work, you can expect tough tackling, you can expect some direct routes to goal, you can expect plenty of criticism coming the way of Stoke, but at the end of the day, they should comfortably enough secure their Premier League status. They have enough week in week out to stay in mid table.
Finishing Position Stoke City: Mid Table Safety
Premier League Top Ten Finish Odds:
7/4 at Bet365
First Three Fixtures
August 14th: Stoke v Chelsea
August 20th: Norwich v Stoke
August 28th: West Brom v Stoke
BACK TO 2010/11 PREMIER LEAGUE BETTING PREVIEW
West Ham, in their unpredictable form are actually worth taking in your betting here. The cups seems to have been a good outlet for Avram Grant’s men this year, with the Hammers reaching the semi final of the Carling Cup. This is a big opportunity for them, a break from their relegation battle, and after hammering Stoke 3-0 at Upton Park at the start of March, then they should be confident. You can also go back to last October when the two sides met in the Carling Cup, a match which West Ham also won by a 3-1 scoreline. In their troubled season, the Hammers look to enjoy breaking out against Stoke, and are therefore worth backing again, as there are not too many team selection problems for Grant to worry about. Even Robbie Keane may be ready to make an appearance for them. Many will perceive West Ham to be the weaker side, because Stoke are at home and they can be a stubborn side to break down at times, and their tough tackling, direct football under Tony Pulis, may upset West Ham’s rhythm. Still it is worth taking some value on West Ham, as they have proven that they can get the better of their northern opponents.
Stoke haven’t managed to beat West Ham in three attempts this season. They were held at home by the Hammers in September, before losing at Upton Park in the league and the Carling Cup. Although Stoke are six places higher in the Premier League than West Ham, it is the London side who are carrying the better form. Over the last four league matches, Stoke have lost three and drawn one, while Saturday’s FA Cup opponents West Ham have won two, drawn one and lost one. The Hammers are on something of a bit of a revival and there are only three points separating those six places in the league. Stoke’s only recent victory was the 3-0 victory over Brighton in the FA Cup, which set up this all Premier League Quarter Final. However, Stoke haven’t actually been beaten at the Britannia Stadium in 2011, so that may tip the favour in the FA Cup football betting markets. Stoke did do the double over West Ham in the league last year, and at home, City have a 52% win percentage against West Ham. Out of 42 matches between the two sides at Stoke, the home side have won 22, with West Ham tallying 12 victories there. Eight of the encounters have been draws. Stoke have netted 59 goals, while the Hammers have responded with just 44.
So, looking at things, there may not be too much between the two sides, but the match going to a replay doesn’t look to be too high of a possibility. Neither team are great and chances at both ends should come, and should be plenty enough for someone to grab a semi final place. The Hammers are carrying decent form to cause an away upset here, and they haven’t been beaten away since the end of January, when they lost to Birmingham in the Carling Cup. It is worth looking at West Ham in your football betting for this one, they seem to be getting things together a bit, and could edge this one.
Stoke v West Ham FA Cup Odds
Stoke v West Ham Betting Tip:
Both teams to score - YES Evens at Totesport
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Stoke v Man United SportingBet Boost Market Tips
With Wayne Rooney surprising everyone by signing a new contract, he still is on the sidelines due to an ankle injury picked up in training. That will return all of the focus on to Dimitar Berbatov and he is Evens at SportingBet as an Anytime Goal scorer. If you want to chance your arm a little more, he is 4/1 as First Goal scorer. In a match United are expected to win, a Manchester United 1-0 win Correct Score bet at SportingBet is favourite or 5/1.
Match Outright Odds:
Man United to win: 3/5
Stoke to win: 4/1
Manchester City v Arsenal SportingBet Boost Market Tips
This is the big clash of the day, as second takes on third in the Premier League. Some great prices around on this one, simply because it could swing either way, so if you have some courage in your betting conviction, you could pick up a tidy profit. With Robin van Persie still missing through injury, the Gunners will be looking to Marouane Chamakh for the goal scoring threat, and he is 11/5 at SportingBet as Anytime Goal scorer. Meanwhile, the red hot Carlos Tevez for Manchester City is Evens in the same market. Tevez as First Goal scorer is priced at 4/1. Most bookmakers are favoring a 1-1 draw in this big fixture, and at SportingBet, that Correct Score bet is worth 5/1 and makes decent value.
Match Outright Odds:
Manchester City to win: 5.4
Arsenal to win: 2/1
Liverpool v Blackburn SportingBet Boost Market Tips
Can Liverpool start to get their Premier League season on track? They crumbled badly again last weekend at Everton, and sitting almost at the bottom of the league, boss Roy Hodgson needs a boost from his players. Fernando Torres is favourite in the odds at SportingBet for being First Goal scorer, while a Correct Score Liverpool 1-0 bet will fetch you 9/2. Liverpool are favourites to win the match, but coming down on the side of Blackburn in your betting will bring rewards if they steal a victory. A 1-0 Correct Score for Blackburn will earn 10/1 at SportingBet, plus of course that 25% boost if you land the result!
Match Outright Odds
Liverpool to win: 3/5
Blackburn to win: 4/1