Pick up with the Potters
They say football is a results business and the media are never shy to make snap judgements based on letters in the formbook rather than performances on the pitch, but it all depends on the size and complexion of your sample.
Stoke have only won one of their last 16 Premier League outings but six of those games have been against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea and they've only suffered defeat four times, so feel free to roll your eyes when you hear that particular stat being recited time and time again this weekend.
Tony Pulis certainly isn't panicking. He accepts his players tailed-off towards the end of last term once the curtain came down on their Europa League adventure and a sense of anti-climax set in, but he's happy enough with the start his team have made to the new campaign.
And we have to agree with those sentiments. The Potters might only be showing four points from five matches but they look pretty reliable at the moment, matching each of the aforementioned Champions League trio, so it's with little hesitation that we take the 10/11 on them doing the business against disorganised Swansea at the Britannia on Saturday.
The Jacks are shaping up to be anything but reliable. Early indications point towards a fair helping of attacking flair and Michael Laudrup's new recruits will cause problems for anyone who fails to do their homework, but you suspect it's those new faces for whom the culture shock awaits in this game.
Stoke were comfortable 2-0 winners in this fixture last February but the benefits of that experience will be lost on most of the team that returns seven months on - Laudrup could field as many as six Britannia virgins - and a handful of the likely starting XI were also on Capital One Cup duty at Crawley in midweek, where Swansea were kept on tenterhooks for the full 90 minutes. The Potters' early exit from that competition means they've had a full seven days to prepare.
Meanwhile, much has been made of Manchester City's leaky defence over the past few weeks and the 5/6 quotes about the champions winning at Fulham are just about big enough to tempt us in, albeit tentatively. Stake a small amount on the Man City and Man United double at 15/8.
There's no getting away from the fact that Roberto Mancini has unsettled the team with his desire to try out alternative systems but City still possess the firepower to outscore the opposition more often than not and we fancy they might just take their shooting boots to Craven Cottage in response to increasing media speculation about their form.
As for United, they've churned out results with real purpose since their opening-day setback against Everton, even if the performances haven't always been up to scratch, and we see them responding in typically ruthless fashion if City do pick up the points in the capital. In that respect, you might view this as a related bet.
Tottenham are a team we expect to improve as the season goes but it's too soon into the Andre Villas-Boas project to expect much of them at a ground where they haven't won in 27 attempts. Indeed, as we pointed out in our Trend Bettors section earlier this week, the Lilywhites have suffered defeat in 20 of the last 26 meetings at all venues, a sequence stretching back 11 years.
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