Stoke City take on Norwich City this Saturday with both sides searching for the points that could see them safe from relegation to the Championship.
As the Premier League entered the new year, the Potters and the Canaries appeared to be comfortable in mid-table and their respective places in the top flight didn’t seem to be in question, but a severe drop in form for both teams has dragged them into a relegation battle.
However, it would seem that wins over the bottom two sides last weekend have moved them both away from the danger zone with Stoke six points clear of 18th-placed Wigan Athletic and Norwich one point better off.
For the Potters, their 2-0 win away to hapless QPR was their first victory in eight matches – and only their second success on the road all season – and with four games left to play, it gives them renewed belief at a vital time in the campaign.
Stoke climbed as high as eighth in the table before Christmas, but their decline in form has seen them drop to 15th and placed question marks over the future of boss Tony Pulis amid fan unrest.
That return to winning ways at Loftus Road has surely played a role in the bookies making Stoke the favourites to claim all three points this coming weekend at evens.
Norwich are priced at 14/5 to claim a rare away win, but given their record on the road, the outsiders tag is more than justified.
Like their opponents on Saturday, Chris Hughton’s men have struggled to gain points away from Norfolk and have the third-worst away record in the league, totalling a solitary win and seven draws.
The reason behind this is a lack of goals: they have only scored 13 times on their travels, compared to 20 at Carrow Road.
This impotence is further highlighted by the fact that the Canaries have failed to score eight times in their previous 20 games, all of which makes 27/20 on them firing another blank in the Potteries seem pretty generous.
Stoke have struggled just as much in front of goal this term, with their tally of 30 making them the lowest scorers in the Premier League.
Indeed, the win over QPR was only the third game in the past eight in which they had managed to strike.
The bookies at bwin fairly reasonably reckon that a 0-0 could well be on the cards at the Britannia Stadium and have put odds of 25/4 on that very outcome.
With the two sides unable to strike with regularity, it’s not surprising to know they have each been involved in less games with over 2.5 goals than any other side this campaign (Norwich 15, Stoke 12 out of 34 games).
The top bet for this one, then, is surely 3/5 on under 2.5 goals being scored over the 90 minutes.