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Nic Ladds 19th Feb 2010 - 17:50

Penniless Pompey to struggle against solid Stoke

Saturday's evening kick-off maybe doesn't look like the most thrilling of encounters but in the past, this is the kind of game that can (hopefully) be full of surprises. Stoke look set for another season of mid-table safety while their opponents could only dream of such mediocrity. Eight points adrift from safety and making the headlines for all the wrong reasons off the pitch; this really is becoming a nightmare season for Portsmouth.

Portsmouth (13/10) have had to ask the Premier League for special permission to sell players outside the transfer window to generate some much-needed funds to keep the club afloat. They may come in to the match with some confidence after beating their south coast rivals Southampton 4-1 in the FA Cup. However, the cup aside they haven't won in the league since 19th of December.

Stoke (21/10) have slowly moved up the table recently with some solid results but they have really struggled away from home - one win all season, scoring just once in their last five away matches. They have had three consecutive 1-1 draws (9/2 here) and will fancy themselves to go one better and get a win.

Considering the home team has lost seven of their twelve home matches and the away team has six draws from their twelve away games, you can't really see it being a classic and I will be punting the draw at 9/4 and Stoke on the draw no bet at 5/4.

Portsmouth's back line will be bolstered with the return of Ricardo Rocha from suspension and Steve Finnan from injury. However Herman Hreidarsson, Tal Ben Haim, Aaron Mokoena and Antony Vanden Borre are all expected to sit out with injury so they do look thin.

Stoke's injury room isn't quite as full with Danny Higginbotham and Matthew Etherington the only injuries and Abdoulaye Faye is suspended.

Pompey are the league's lowest scorers so I wouldn't expect many goals from them but Aruna Dindane (6/1) and Frederic Piquionne (13/2) are their most likely scorers.  Quincy Owusu-Abeyie got his first goal against Southampton and is 10/3 to get one at any point during the game.

Ricardo Fuller has chipped in with a few goals in recent weeks and has scored in both of his Premier League appearances so far. You can get 13/2 on him getting this first goal, however Stoke's key man for me will be Tuncay Sanli. The ex-Middlesbrough front man is in his element in such scrappy games and will run his heart out for the cause. He is 7/1 to get the first goal or if you subscribe to my prediction of 1-1 you can get a huge 35/1 on him first goal and 1-1 scorecast.

Pompey do have a decent history versus Stoke at home as they have won the last five meetings, although those were in different circumstances to how both teams stand currently.

Personally I think it will be a 1-1 draw, maybe Stoke could edge it 1-0 (6/1) if they can defend well. It will be tight though and I think under 2 goals at 9/5 is worth a go.

I get the sense even an unlikely emphatic win for Portsmouth will be able to alleviate the doom and gloom around the terraces and the misery will be compounded with another poor performance.



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