STOKE vs CHELSEA

A TRIP to the Britannia Stadium as his first experience of Premier League management perhaps wouldn’t have been top of Andre Villas-Boas’ wishlist when he first agreed to become manager at Chelsea. Stoke have developed into a proper top flight side and that is mainly due to their form at home in front of a passionate, vociferous support.

Tony Pulis has bought in some decent players this summer like Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate, while the forward pairing of Kenwyne Jones and Ricardo Fuller will cause backlines plenty of stress. They are incredibly difficult to beat on home soil, managing to avoid defeat against Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool last season.

Chelsea are viewed by the bookmakers as the second favourites for the league and it would be a tremendous achievement for Villas-Boas to emulate his compatriot Jose Mourinho by winning the title in his first season. There is still stacks of talent at Stamford Bridge and much will depend on Fernando Torres finding his form again, but the squad is ageing and they will miss the injured Michael Essien massively.

The Blues have a good record on the opening day of the season, winning their last nine openers, but they wouldn’t have had many tougher trips than a visit to the Potteries and I’m happy to take them on at 4/6 with Paddy Power. The draw is available at 4.0 on Betdaq and that looks the best value, as Villas-Boas will surely be content with a point from his opening game.

There were two or fewer goals in 11 of Stoke’s 19 home games last season and the same is true in 10 of Chelsea’s last 17 away contests. There have also been less than three goals in five of the Blues’ last six trips to bottom-half teams, so the 1-1 scoreline at 13/2 with Paddy Power is the best call. Spread bettors should also look to sell goals at 2.5 with Sporting

Index as the defences could hold the key to this one.

POINTERS...

Draw at 4.0 on Betdaq
1-1 correct scoreline at 13/2 with Paddy Power
Sell total goals at 2.5 with Sporting Index