Stoke v Valencia: Potters to bring league form into Europe
Stoke enter uncharted territory as they welcome European heavyweights Valencia to the Britannia Stadium, but with the Potters in wretched form, an away win at 6/4 in the Europa League odds is where the safe money should be headed.
Never before have Stoke reached the last 32 of European competition and it is hard to envisage that their adventure is going to extend beyond Valencia.
Tony Pulis’ side have more pressing concerns somewhat closer to home, having lost each of their last four Premier League fixtures.
But it is not all bad news for the Potters, who have an impressive unbeaten home record in this season’s Europa League.
They have won four and drawn one at the Britannia, with Turkish side Besiktas among their scalps.
Pulis’ men are 9/4 to make it six undefeated with a creditable draw and 9/5 to secure a precious lead for the return leg.
Valencia are not exactly in sparkling form either, with just one win in their previous five domestic outings, but with third place in La Liga all but sewn up, their attention should be firmly on European success.
They reached the last 16 of the Champions League last season and were knocked out of Europe’s second tier competition at the quarter-finals stage in 2009/10.
In Roberto Soldado, Valencia have a potent goal threat, and the former Real Madrid and Getafe striker is 9/2 to score first.
Soldado has netted 17 times this season, including five in the Champions League, albeit all five were at the Mestalla. He has also notched a goal against English opposition, scoring a late equaliser from the penalty spot to deny Chelsea back in September.
Stoke’s most likely saviour comes in the form of the gangly Peter Crouch, who has a modest eight goals this season, but has twice popped up with crucial European strikes.
The England striker is 6/1 to score first and should he score at anytime in the 90 minutes, Ladbrokes will refund all losing first goalscorer bets.