Premier League Betting: Optimum conditions for Fulham and Stoke provide optimum betting opportunities
Forever in search of interesting trends, Andrew Atherley tells us why our money should be on Fulham and Stoke this weekend.
Football punters could do worse than take a tip from the world of horserace betting in terms of basing selections on form factors such as going, distance, class and course. Some of those variables apply to football, albeit in different ways, and this weekend's Premier League programme throws up two prime examples of teams that perform well when they have their optimum conditions.
The teams in question are Stoke and Fulham, who show their best form when dropped in class (against teams from the bottom half of the table) on the right ground (ie their own). And this weekend, at home to West Ham and Hull respectively, is arguably the first time this season that Stoke and Fulham have had those optimum conditions.
Stoke have won two and lost two of their four home games so far, all against teams currently in the top half of the table. On Saturday they host 19th-placed West Ham, whose early form suggests they will struggle to repeat their top-ten finish of the past two seasons.
Last season Stoke won six out of nine at home to bottom-half finishers (a 67% win rate) and were one of only five teams undefeated in that category. Possibly this season's wins against Sunderland (currently eighth) and Burnley (ninth) will turn out to have added to that record, and certainly Saturday's match against West Ham looks a winning opportunity for Tony Pulis's side.
In early betting for the West Ham match, Stoke are [2.2] to back, which is good value set against the odds that would be offered on most teams with similar home win rates against bottom-half opposition. And Stoke's undefeated record in that category also points to a lay of West Ham at [3.85].
Fulham boast similar figures, with a strong home record against lower-class opponents since Roy Hodgson took charge at the end of 2007. At home to bottom-half finishers under Hodgson, Fulham have won eight out of 12 (like Stoke, a 67% win rate) and lost three.
Fulham have played only three home games this season and all have been tough - they lost against Chelsea and Arsenal and beat Everton. Monday night's game against Hull is much easier - the visitors are 18th in the table and have taken only one point from their opening four away games.
In early betting for the Hull match, Fulham are much shorter than Stoke, at [1.72], but their record indicates that those odds still underrate their chance.
And both Fulham and Stoke will be worth considering for similar home games in the coming weeks. Two of Fulham's next three home games are against Blackburn (16th) and Bolton (13th), while all five of Stoke's home games until the end of the year are against teams currently in the bottom half - West Ham, followed by Wolves (17th), Portsmouth (20th), Wigan (12th) and Birmingham (14th).
Saturday brings another 'big four versus mini-big four' clash when Aston Villa host Chelsea in the lunchtime live game. The score in such matches so far this season stands at 4-3 in favour of the big four teams, with no draws - in line with the unusual dearth of stalemates.
As noted before, the draw has been a big runner in this type of match in the past two seasons, with a 47% draw rate last season and 41% the season before, and a resurgence in the number of draws would be no surprise. The draw on Saturday is [3.8] and Chelsea look short at [1.88], especially as Villa Park is high on their list of bogey grounds - last season's 1-0 win was their first victory there in ten seasons.