Weblog: The football punter

Premier League leaders to make class count

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 8pm Monday

Stoke's need for points is greater than Manchester City's but there have been few signs of Pep Guardiola's side easing up with the title in sight and the runaway Premier League leaders should outclass the hosts at the bet365 Stadium.

That's exactly what happened in the reverse fixture in October as the Manchester men ran riot with a 7-2 victory thanks to six different scorers - not to mention an own goal from right-back Kyle Walker.

There will be far easier assignments for Stoke, 19th in the Premier League and with the worst goal difference in the top flight, as they desperately scrap against relegation and the strong odds-on favourites are fancied to extend their advantage at the summit to 16 points.

Worthwhile bets are not easy to come by given that City go off at such short prices every week, but backing the second half to produce the most goals could be one way to profit.

It has occurred in 17 of City's 29 Premier League games and with good reason too. Opposition teams, even at home, tend to pack their defence against City and their matches follow a similar pattern as Guardiola's side attempt to penetrate with constant short passes.

The leaders can be nullified but few manage it for 90 minutes and if the game opens up that is when Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus really get motoring.

There are different ways to try to counter City's brilliance but they can confidently lay claim to being Europe's top side.

Last month Leicester tried to chase the match, swapping from a five-man defence to a four at half-time only for the 1-1 half-time score to become 5-1 at the final whistle. Chelsea seemed happy to limit the damage to 1-0 last week having held out for 46 minutes but the two different approaches finished with the same outcome.

Stoke have attempted to knuckle down under Paul Lambert, grinding out four draws in their last five matches, but that was from a relatively soft schedule against Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Leicester and Southampton.

However, only West Ham (57) have conceded more goals than Stoke's tally of 54 and the Potters have often been thrashed in fixtures against elite sides, conceding an astonishing 27 times in their last six battles with the big six.

Seven of those came at the Etihad, when Guardiola had the luxury of resting Aguero, who has notched 15 times in as many appearances in 2018, but should not be overly missed after being ruled out with a minor knee complaint.

Jesus is a perfectly able deputy who can shoot down Stoke.

Second half to produce more goals

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