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Stoke City: 2011 Team Preview | EPL Betting Odds

English Premier League – Stoke City 2011 Preview

Stoke City is indeed a team on the rise, and they seem intent on improving out of the middle of the table. The were resilient last year with the high point of their season coming by way of a 3-1 victory over recurrent top table finishers Chelsea. They were tough and never gave up, which shows why they managed draws against several of the best Premier Leagues teams last year.

Odds to win the 2011-12 Premiership outright 2,500/1

Their manager Tony Pulis has done a fantastic job with this team, creating a bully in all phases of the roster. He has brought in players that fit his mold in recent years, and the club has only gotten better as a result.

Still, the side is struggling to get into the top-half of the table, but look intent on doing so this season despite remaining quiet during the transfer window.

The midfield is probably the sides strongest suit, as they have bolstered it in recent years.

Jermaine Pennant is the teams best player in the engine room, and is expected to improve even more this year. Last season, he scored just three goals and tallied eight assists in 29 games, but has already looked better in the team’s first two Europa games. [ad-3678122]

The front line can be considered anemic overall, but they do have a very reliable player that is young and has a lot of good football ahead of him. Forward Kenwyne Jones, 26, had a good year in 2010 finishing with nine goals in 39 total starts. However, many expect him to break out big time in his second season with the team since departing from Sunderland.

The team would have been smart to pick up a better keeper top replace Asmir Begovic over the transfer season, but failed to do so.

Now they will have to live with his mediocre play all year. Begovic conceded 32 goals in his 38 total games, and had trouble staying healthy during the 2010 campaign. Thomas Sorensen was often subbed in for Begovic last year, but failed to be a game changer in any way, in fact, he was worse than Begovic allowing 16 goals in just 10 games.

However to be somewhat fair, a lot of the failures in goal can be attributed to a very thin backline. The team just recently added former West Ham center back Mathhew Upson, thus bolstering their defense. This should bode well for them, as it was arguably their biggest need. Now they have a reliable tackler and defender that can help the other defenders learn and grow.

It will be hard for the Potters to make it far without Upson being a far superior player than he has been recently, and at the age of 32, it is hard to see him elevating his play.

Matt’s Prediction:

The side is on the up, but to think that they can do any better than they did last year (competing for a top-10 finish) would be to far off base. I’d expect them to finish near the middle of the table again.

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