Norwich City vs Stoke City & Sunderland vs Aston Villa
This Saturday sees maybe the two least inspiring matches of the season so far only rivalled when these 4 teams faced off last week in a slightly different order of play where Villa drew 1-1 with Norwich & Stoke drew 0-0 with Sunderland. The four teams have each managed just one win each & fill 4 of the bottom 5 places for goals scored in the league this season, whilst Sunderland & Stoke are 2nd & joint 3rd best in terms of goals conceded. All of this means it's been pretty miserable for fans of all 4 teams this year & could end up having long term consequences in terms of reduced attendances if they can't find some attacking tendencies quickly.
(Crouch & Walters are Stoke's likeliest scorers)
We'll start off with the Norwich v Stoke game & this is one that we feel is going to be a real struggle for the Canaries as their one method of scoring that has proven at least semi-effective is getting the ball up to Grant Holt & he has proven he can bully plenty of classy Premier League defenders. Holt however won't find it as easy to get success against the Stoke defenders who are the most physical in the league (even without the broken-legged Marc Wilson) & can easily deal with most crosses & set piece situations & are led by their dominant captain Ryan Shawcross. We're also fans (as are Chelsea) of Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic & think they can keep Norwich at bay here, Stoke don't score too many themselves (only scored 3 or more goals once in the League since May 2011) so this looks an ideal candidate of a game to go under 2.5 goals & odds of 4/5 about it are excellent value. Stoke have played probably the 4 best sides in the country already (Chelsea, Arsenal & both Manchester sides) losing only twice & they'll be looking to improve now they have an easier set of fixtures & we'll take them to sneak this one 1-0 at a generous price of 8/1.
(Colback, Cuellar & O'Shea - 3 of Sunderland's impenetrable back 4)
Sunderland have only lost once this year (to Man City) & have been imperious defensively with veterans John O'Shea & Carlos Cuellar arguably the best centre back pairing in the league right now, of course it helps that they are guarded by the midfield terrier that is Lee Cattermole. Sunderland's real problem has been the lack of chances they've created & Stephane Sessegnon's form has been a particular problem as he was so important last season, James McClean is off the boil a bit too & Seb Larsson hasn't even been getting his set pieces right. We'd also argue that although Craig Gardner has done well at right back this year we much prefer him higher up the pitch playing neat one-twos to find a way through opposing defenses. If Sunderland do create chances they know that Steven Fletcher can put them away & they may find they can push higher up the pitch in this game as Villa offer so little at the top end of the pitch themselves.
Villa have only scored twice & gained one point from their 5 away games so far, losing to nil against West Ham, Spurs & Fulham, they may have scored 3 in midweek but that was against League One Swindon & we think they'll fail to find the back of the net here. Both sides played pretty much full strength sides in their League Cup matches meaning there could be somewhat tired legs here but Sunderland will be desperate to win for their fans after falling to local rivals Middlesbrough & can take this with a narrow 1-0 victory (6-1) & this can be doubled up with the previous game to go under 2.5 goals too (8/11).
Forest Green Rovers vs Port Vale
This weekend sees the 1st round of the FA Cup with Forest Green Rovers entertaining Port Vale at The New Lawn. Forest Green are sitting in 6th spot in the Conference Premier whilst Port Vale are 28 places higher in 2nd position in League Two.
(Striker Tom Pope has been in fantastic goalscoring form with 15 goals already this season)
Forest Green, the longest serving members of the Conference Premier, made a fantastic start to the season but have tailed off in recent weeks. They have lost four league games in a row & two of these have been at home against Tamworth & Luton Town. Confidence would have undoubtedly taken a hit & Port Vale will be too strong for them at the general price of 6/5.
Selections: Under 2.5 goals double - Norwich v Stoke at 4/5 & Sunderland v Aston Villa at 8/11 (Stan James)
Stoke to beat Norwich 1-0 at 8/1 (Stan James)
Sunderland to beat Aston Villa 1-0 at 6/1 (Various)
Port Vale to beat Forest Green Rovers at 6/5 (Various)