Exotic pre-season jaunts across the world are so in vogue for Premier League clubs at the moment that even Stoke City have jumped on board the seemingly never ending gravy train.
Fine club though they undoubtedly are, when the global TV audiences tune in to watch Premier League football it almost certainly isn’t with Stoke in mind, but unglamorous though they may be, five years as a top flight club has earned the Potters the right to exploit the untold riches that Richard Schudamore and company have brought to the elite of English football.
So Stoke have joined Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa in heading to the US for part of their summer preparations, and if there is, frankly, something a bit ridiculous about Tony Pulis’ men courting the American market in hope of expanding the brand, then at least the players will benefit from a tough trip in the hot, hot heat.
Columbus Crew have the best defensive record in the section, which means a leg-weary and possibly still jet-lagged Stoke, who don’t exactly find goals on the road easy to come by at the best of times, could struggle to penetrate a much fitter, much sharper side.
But with fitness the only priority for Pulis, it may give bwinners the chance to grab a bit of value on Stoke going down in their opening match of the tour against Columbus Crew. Stoke are actually the favourites to win the match at 11/10, with the draw at 11/5, but it is the 21/10 on a home victory that interests me the most.
Pulis has already spoken of the ‘incredibly tough’ programme he is putting his players through (Stoke are always among the fittest sides in the Premier League) and the regime the former Gillingham boss is forcing upon his staff before the Columbus Crew encounter is a case in point.
The Potters’ squad only arrived in America on Monday, but Pulis has already had them training and on the day of the match against Columbus, the Stoke players will undergo two training sessions before they kick off on Tuesday evening – it is hardly the ideal preparation for winning a football match.
The thing is, Pulis isn’t bothered about that. The Welshman said yesterday that he “accepts that performances in these matches will be affected by the work we do beforehand” and that “results don’t concern me at this stage, it is all about building fitness for the long season ahead”.
He’s basically saying he couldn’t care less how they get on, and that does nothing put perk my interest for 21/10 on Columbus. The Crew have played 18 matches in the MLS Eastern Conference and lie six points off the play-offs with two games in hand. They have a 7-4-7 record, which is reasonable enough, but have the best defensive record in the section, which means a leg-weary and possibly still jet-lagged Stoke, who don’t exactly find goals on the road easy to come by at the best of times, could struggle to penetrate a much fitter, much sharper side.
Given the circumstances you’d be mad to back Stoke, and at a pretty decent price Columbus could prove a good value shot.
Recommended bet: Columbus Crew @ 21/10
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