Few football betting fans would have predicted that the Britannia Stadium would become a Premier League fortress when Stoke City were promoted three years ago.
Yet it has developed a deserved reputation as being a place where the nation’s heavyweight teams struggle to secure maximum points.
Indeed, the Potters secured 74 per cent of their points total at home last season and boasted one of the tightest defences outside the top six, conceding less than one per game.
This fine run has continued this season, having let in just one goal in their opening four home league matches. Liverpool and Spurs both failed to register, while Manchester United could only muster a 1-1 draw.
Newcastle United will therefore understandably approach their visit to the Potteries on Monday with some hesitation.
If Stoke are to improve on their 13th-placed finish last season, however, they must supplement their strong home defensive performances with plenty of goals.
Boss Tony Pulis is more than aware of this need and his purchase of Peter Crouch over the summer underlined his commitment to strengthening his attacking firepower.
And while Stoke fans may not feel that he has shown his full £10 million worth just yet, Crouch has nevertheless provided them with a much-needed threat up front.
Importantly, he has proven his ability to score in games against top-class teams, netting this season against Manchester United, Arsenal and Besiktas.
Having only played two minutes of their Carling Cup match against Liverpool in midweek, he will be rested and keen to get on the scoresheet early on.
Odds of 11/2 for Crouch to net first therefore represent a good choice for punters. New bwin customers who use their free £25 bet this way will win £162.50 if successful.
Newcastle will not roll over easily, though. Alan Pardew’s men have enjoyed a superb unbeaten start to the season and they also carry a potent goal threat.
Demba Ba may have stolen the headlines at St James’ so far this season, but it is another summer signing who has increasingly been making his mark in the Premier League.
French international Yohan Cabaye secured maximum points for the Magpies against Wigan last weekend and with two goals and two assists in his last four games, he is likely to be central to the action on Monday.
Both goals were scored in the final moments of matches, so punters should consider backing him to net the last goal of the game once again at 16/1.
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