It's fair to say that the formbook has gone out of the window when it comes to identifying the winners of individual Premier League games this season, but I'm still keen to exploit one piece of recent evidence that points very firmly to a great bet at the weekend.
Step forward Fulham who went up to the Britannia Stadium just after Christmas and despite being subjected to a cauldron of noise – a noise definitely not made by their own fans who could have collectively travelled up on a skateboard judging by the dire turn out – managed to outmuscle and outwit a Stoke outfit that is notorious for bullying opposition in the Potteries.
It was a brilliant performance from Mark Hughes' charges and one that most definitely came about as the direct result of some quite meticulous planning by the Welsh gaffer.
Meticulous and cunning too with his chosen 4-4-2 formation content to leave both strikers – Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey – very high up the field at all times.
Not only did that give the Cottagers a great outlet throughout, but it also, in one fell swoop, dampened down the major threat posed by Stoke centre-halves Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross who were both anxious to the extreme about dashing forward at will as they usually do without cover.
As a result caught in two minds they didn't really get involved in dead balls in and around their opponents penalty area with anywhere near the same gusto as usual – a big loss to their team's goal threat though not the only piece of successfully calculated thinking from Hughes because he also picked Chris Baird for his first start in over a month at full-back not only to keep Jermaine Pennant in check, but also to get forward and put pressure on in good areas himself.
And how it worked with Baird, whose last goal was registered whilst at Southampton in March 2007, managing to bag a brace within the first 20 minutes of kick off.
Amazing, and with Hughes also ensuring that every training session leading up to the game incorporated hours of defending throw-ins whizzing into the box, the scene was well and truly set for the smash and grab that ensued.
The last couple of years have shown that you have to get out of bed early to get the better of Tony Pulis, but all the above evidence certainly points to the fact that Hughes set his alarm correctly the last time they met and what's to say he can't do exactly the same thing
Nothing at all – he has the same players at his disposal plus interesting new signing Steve Sidwell, he has home advantage this time around and with Stoke reaching the 30-point mark last weekend he might also be bumping into a team that will be very aware that their task for the season – to achieve survival – is virtually fulfilled.
As such then we need to be on Fulham and with a price of 5/4 available we need to be on pretty big, as well as getting involved in a correct score of 2-0 at 12/1 – anymore and we'd be wasting our money because
Stoke have remarkably never conceded more than two in any league game in the 2010/11 campaign.
Something for the Weekend
3 homes: Leicester, Peterborough & Port Vale (5/1).
3 aways: Norwich, Burnley & Sheffield Wednesday (14/1).
Steer clear of: Liverpool (Evens away at Wolves).
? Odds supplied by Taylor's Bookmakers and Exchange Shop, LS28 6PA and may vary.
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