In among the clashes at the top and the tussles between the teams at the bottom of the Premier League that take place this weekend, Fulham vs Stoke City hardly gets the pulse racing, does it?
The team in 12th travel to the team in 14th with both sides taking only the slightest look over their shoulders at the relegation zone – it has last game on Match of the Day written all over it.
Three points separate the teams in the table and even though both clubs are yet to reach the magic 40-point mark that was no doubt the pre-season aim for both Martin Jol and Tony Pulis, it would be a major surprise if either got dragged into the dogfight come May.
There is enough quality in both squads to avoid that and I actually think the two teams are quite evenly matched.
That may not be quite reflected in the odds on offer from bwin, as Fulham have been posted at odds-on favourites at 19/20, with the draw at 23/10 and Stoke quoted at 3/1 outsiders.
But I fancy that Saturday will prove just how little there is to choose between them and would rather be on the draw at 23/10 than any other result.
Even a look at the form guide shows that the sides go into the match in similar nick. Fulham have taken eight points from their last six and while Stoke have won just five points from their last half-dozen, they have included away trips to Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Pulis seems to have been handpicking fixtures he feels he can get points from away from the Britannia and Fulham will undoubtedly fall into that category, despite the Cottagers’ fine recent home run.
Despite those difficult fixtures, the Potters have taken a very creditable ten points from their last six away games and are not the easy touches that they have been for most of their stay in the Premier League, where an inability to win away has been propped up by their great home form.
Last year, Stoke lost 13 times on the road, but that number is just six so far this term. Pulis seems to have been handpicking fixtures he feels he can get points from away from the Britannia and Fulham will undoubtedly fall into that category, despite the Cottagers’ fine recent home run.
Jol’s team have taken 13 points from their last six at Craven Cottage, beating Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle in the process. Yet their draw against West Brom last time out proves they can struggle against teams who show less ambition – certainly a Stoke trait on the road – and have posted a very indifferent 1-3-2 record at home to teams in the bottom half.
So taking into account the stats and the evenness of the teams, the draw is the sensible play at 23/10.
New customers receive a free £25 bet for joining bwin.com and placing that on Fulham and Stoke to draw would return £82.50 if they indeed cancel each other out.
I also like the 7/4 about the match being 0-0 at half-time, as both teams score the vast majority of their goals in the second half of games.
For Fulham, an incredible 75% of their goals come after the break, while that number for Stoke is 65%. In what is sure to be a tight match, that 7/4 looks great value.
And if it finishes 0-0 (a 27/4 shout), then Gary Lineker definitely has his final match on Saturday night.
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