Mark Hughes has yet to finish outside the top-flight top ten in seven completed seasons as a Premier League manager and that should be more than enough to see his Stoke side lord it over Aston Villa this term.
Yet somehow, in a rare instance of the bwin layers relaxing their vicelike grip on value, the boys in black and gold have both parties inseparable at 87/100 in their seasonal match betting.
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Last season, many pundits tipped the Potters to struggle in anticipation of the teething pains associated with Hughes’ attempts to convert their Tony Pulis-hewn chassis into a more attractive machine.
Villa, meanwhile, had seemingly survived the brutal, but necessary pruning of experienced squad players at Paul Lambert’s steady hand.
Instead Stoke posted a handsome ninth-place, 50-point finish while Villa came home 12 points, and six places behind them.
Since then the transfer window has seen the boys from the Britannia sharpen their attack with the acquisitions of Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic.
Villa on the other hand, must rely upon Grant Holt and Darren Bent to lead the line in the injury absence of Christian Benteke and his understudy Libor Kozak.
However, it’s in defence that Villa are really inferior to their rivals in this match bet.
The signing of former Arsenal and Fulham clogger Philippe Senderos is likely to offer little consolation to supporters of a club with the most porous defence to avoid relegation for the last two campaigns in a row.
Backers of this particular wager won’t have long to wait to see a decisive event in the destination of the dough either, with Stoke 21/20 favourites to defeat Aston Villa in the Potteries on the season’s opening day.