It is around this stage of the campaign the votes get cast for the various end-of-season gongs and Paul Lambert will be high on a lot of people’s lists for Manager of the Year.
The Scot has shrewdly negotiated his Norwich team through their first Premier League campaign with the minimum of fuss and although he still claims to be focusing on gathering enough points to avoid relegation, in reality the Canaries are closer to the Champions League chasers.
It’s a testament to Lambert’s managerial prowess that he has rung the most out of a modest squad to over-achieve in a manner previously associated with tomorrow’s counterpart Tony Pulis.
The Stoke gaffer has ushered his side into comfortable mid-table finishes in each of their previous three seasons since surfacing from the Championship and although these two are likely to be squabbling over a few harmless spots in the thick of the table, the mentality of both bosses means their players will be going all out for the points tomorrow.
Stoke had been in a bit of a mid-season crisis before last week’s home win over Swansea. The Potters had only won one of their previous nine league fixtures and had crashed out of the Europa League in the process.
Given Stoke’s form and relatively heavy workload with continental commitments, the thinking man should be moving away from them getting the result, especially given their odds-on price.
The previously fortified Britannia Stadium had become more hospitable and indeed, Stoke have only won one of their last six home ties.
In their last nine league games they’ve only scored nine goals and dropped from eighth to the previously unchartered territory of the bottom half, but they still remain a dangerous proposition on their own patch.
This is perhaps why bwin’s 3Way football betting market has them as surprisingly strong favourites for the win at 83/100, with Norwich at 16/5 and the draw at 5/2.
Given Stoke’s form and relatively heavy workload with continental commitments, the thinking man should be moving away from them getting the result, especially given their odds-on price, and a safe pair of hands is the draw or Norwich win double at 19/20.
The Canaries are indeed a mobile little outfit away from Carrow Road, winning four and drawing four of their 14 away league fixtures this season and they’ve actually scored more goals on the road than Chelsea and Liverpool.
Unfortunately, though, they have only kept two clean sheets and Stoke are always good for a goal on home soil, so if you do fancy an away win, it’ll likely come with more than 2.5 goals in the game at 6/1 or possibly 2-1 Norwich at a very generous 12/1.
One area worthy of mention is these sides’ respective first-half records. Stoke have only scored seven first-half goals at home in 13 outings and Norwich have gone in level five times, so the half-time draw is a tempting option at 6/5.
Given the positions and similarities of these two teams, arguably the best shout overall would be the draw at full-time. A point wouldn’t be a disaster for either side and the reverse fixture earlier in the season finished 1-1.
I’ll be leaning towards that score again – especially at 11/2. A free £25 bet is available to anyone joining bwin.com and putting that on the 1-1 draw could pocket you £162.50 if successful.
Recommended bet: Stoke and Norwich to draw 1-1 @ 11/2
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