FA Cup finalists Stoke play their first game in European club competition since 1974 this evening, with manager Tony Pulis vowing to play his strongest possible team.
While some managers view the Europa League as an inconvenience, Pulis is aware that Stoke supporters see the Potters’ continental campaign as an important part in the club’s history.
As such, he will be doing all he can to ensure Stoke progress to the next round and beyond, with players’ preparations for the start of the domestic campaign having been tailored accordingly.
Even so, Pulis is wary of the threat posed by Hajduk Split, Stoke’s opponents this evening.
Despite the fact that Stoke are 1/2 favourites to win the game and 1/4 to progress to the next round in bwin’s football betting market, Pulis is not taking the game lightly.
“Out of the teams we could have been drawn against, this is as hard a game as we could have had,” he commented.
A win for Hajduk Split is priced at 22/5, with a draw available at 57/20.
Meanwhile, those convinced the Croatian side will get something out of the game could bet on a draw or an away win at odds of 5/4.
However, Stoke’s home advantage should give them the edge against their opponents this evening.
Had the Premier League table been based on away form alone, Stoke would have finished in the relegation zone last season.
As it was, they finished in 13th after recording ten wins, four draws and just five defeats at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis is also expecting the local crowd to get behind their team, which would make it an intimidating atmosphere for the visitors.
“The place will be rocking. They tell me the atmosphere in Split is fantastic – well let’s see what they think of our atmosphere,” he confirmed.
With this in mind, a punt on Hajduk Split to fail to score at odds of 21/20 looks attractive.
A successful £25 free bet on Stoke to keep a clean sheet, available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account, would return £51.25.
New customers can register here to claim a £25 free bet.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting.