Sitting in tenth spot with a game in hand over several of their pursuers, Aston Villa currently occupy the box seat in the race to finish above the middle point in the Premier League, but don’t discount Stoke.
During his five full seasons in club management, City boss Mark Hughes has yet to finish worse than tenth in the English top flight, making the 5/2 about the Potters ending up in the top ten for the first time since their promotion an attractive proposition.
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The former Manchester United, Barcelona and FC Bayern striker took over a Blackburn side destined for doom in 2004/05.
Having steered them to safety, he then led Rovers to sixth the following campaign.
In 2006/07 even UEFA Cup qualification couldn’t derail his unerring aim for the top ten, while the following season the Lancastrians were back up to seventh without the distraction of continental competition.
At Manchester City his sole full fixture list in charge ended in tenth, while another one-term role at Fulham saw Hughes’ charges finish eight in the standings.
His exploits in all three jobs bode well for Stoke who, after a period of transition that was to be expected given how deeply entrenched the side were in Tony Pulis’ ideology, are belatedly finding their groove.
The Potters are seventh in a Premier League based on the last six fixtures and can keep track with Aston Villa when making the trip to Villa Park, a ground where they’ve taken a point in four of their last five top-flight visits, in their next outing.
While the Villans’ struggles on home turf have been well documented, Stoke boast the sixth-best home record in the division, making it far from fanciful that they can claim a double-figure points haul from the remaining Britannia visits of Hull, Newcastle, Tottenham Fulham.