Back-to-back wins for Stoke have lifted them clear of the bottom three and they will now expect to move away from danger and towards the top-half spot they’ve adopted in the past two terms. Winning at Swansea will be tough though; only five sides have gone to South Wales and won since the start of last season and they are all better teams than Stoke.
Swansea have won 11 of their 23 home games since the start of 2014/15 and given they are facing a bottom-half side here that makes their price of evens look reasonable. However, removing the top and bottom four from last season and those teams currently occupying those slots this term, their record in the remaining 13 home games becomes W3-D7-L3. Their recent results of just one win in six games – an admittedly impressive 2-1 success over Man Utd – during which they’ve scored just six times also highlights a difficulty of getting across the winning line due to the lack of a top-class finisher.
Bafetimbi Gomis has done a decent job of filling the void left by Wilfried Bony’s departure last January and Andre Ayew has been a revelation. Ultimately though, they averaged 1.31 goals per game in Bony’s 16 starts last term and just 1.16 gpg in their other 30 matches since the start of last season, and seven of the last eight of the aforementioned 13 game sample have had fewer than three goals (nine of 13 overall).
While Stoke increasingly have ‘over-goals’ tendencies at home the same is not true on the road. 13 of their last 19 away games have had fewer than three goals, including all seven of their trips to middle-third finishers last term. Ryan Shawcross’ absence and the sale of Steven N’Zonzi in the summer have certainly weakened the defence but while Shawcross may not be quite ready for a first team return the team has adjusted well in recent weeks with a first clean sheet of the season in their last game before the international break. One area Mark Hughes could do with improving is Stoke’s first-half record on the road, as in their 23 away games since the start of last season they’ve gone W2-D13-L7 to half-time but W7-D8-L8 in the second half. However, given they’ve also lost just half the last 10 away matches they’ve conceded first in the Swansea/Draw at 17/1 and Draw/Stoke at 17/2 both look value long shots.
This looks like a tight affair between two teams we expect to finish very close to each other come the end of the season. As such we can’t back Swansea at evens but would rather lean towards the draw at 5/2, while the nine 1-1 draws these teams have had between them in their 46 combined home/away matches since the start of last season would suggest that the 1-1 correct score should be closer to 4/1 than the current price of 6/1.
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