Potters can frustrate United
In years gone by, a waterlogged pitch in Warsaw would have raised nothing more than an eyebrow. But in the modern age of retractable roofs and caffeine stimulants, the inquest that follows such a farce can be painstaking and we might not have seen the back of this particular episode just yet.
Because it's not inconceivable that the disruption could impact on the performances of returning England internationals in the Premier League this weekend and we think Manchester United could be the primary team to suffer, which partly explains why we're backing Stoke (+1.5) on the Asian handicap at odds-against.
It's not unfair to say United lack the creative strength in depth of their title rivals, performances tend to rely heavily on the influence of one or two individuals, and you can forgive Sir Alex Ferguson if he launched a tirade of expletives at his television as Wayne Rooney toiled on what Roy Hodgson described as a "soggy, dead pitch" in the Polish capital.
Rooney was withdrawn on 73 minutes with Hodgson admitting he looked a bit leggy, so don't be surprised if he starts on the bench against the Potters, just as he did when the Red Devils went down 3-2 against Spurs at the end of last month. Of lesser consequence, but relevant nonetheless, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley both played the full 90 minutes, while Danny Welbeck appeared for the final quarter.
So that's the case for United underperforming - and we can rest assured that Ferguson will mention it if they do come up short - but what can Stoke contribute to this bet? After all, the Potters have been feeble travellers, losing 20 out of 24 away matches against top-six opposition in their first four seasons at this level. Well, it's early days yet, but Tony Pulis' men appear to have a bit more about them on the road this term.
The Staffordshire club stood firm for 85 minutes at Stamford Bridge last month when a Chelsea side consisting of three playmakers behind Fernando Torres needed left-back Ashley Cole to pop-up from nowhere late on. However, Stoke were undeterred and their stifling tactics worked a treat at Anfield a fortnight ago where the Potters held Liverpool to a goalless draw.
If Pulis has been making the most of his advantageous position in terms of preparation and his players repeat those standards in terms of tactical discipline and self-belief, then it could prove to be a long afternoon for the Old Trafford faithful. The beauty of this bet is having the narrow United victory onside, an outcome that neither side might look upon too disparagingly.
Meanwhile, two of the newly-promoted sides go head to head at Upton Park but that description doesn't quite tell the story of the fixture because it's hard to view West Ham under Sam Allardyce as anything other than an established Premier League outfit and we can't resist the 10/11 on the Londoners making light work of lightweight Southampton.
The Saints have looked distinctly naive as a defensive entity but their results have so far been masked by some timely goals that have arrived out of nowhere. It's a cover-up that owes much to their set-piece threat and the individual quality of Rickie Lambert, but Allardyce is acutely aware of both dangers from their meetings in the Championship last term.
As such, we should assume he will be better prepared than others and we fully expect a host of star-studded summer arrivals to make all the difference for the Hammers, exploiting the gaps that have seen Saints concede a staggering 26 goals in their first seven matches.
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