Brentford have taken some time to get back into their stride after their remarkable post-lockdown surge last season which saw them come from nowhere to a position where they somehow blew automatic promotion and then lost in the playoff final to their nearest rivals Fulham.
It’s been a tough few months for The Bees with top scorer Ollie Watkins heading to Aston Villa as well, but Ivan Toney looks a decent enough replacement for the 24-year-old hitman. They’ve won one, drawn one and lost one so far as they struggle to shake off last year’s disappointment and adapt to their new surroundings up the road from Griffin Park.
Preston are winless from three with a draw and two defeats and they would have been hoping for better after narrowly missing out on the playoffs last term. But it could be very different this time around for Alex Neil’s troops. They’ve struggled for goals and I suspect they’ll find it hard to break down their hosts on Sunday while succumbing to their attacking prowess.
Thomas Frank’s side are unlikely to blow Preston away but they should have enough to get the job done in narrow style. Under 2.5 has clicked in four of these two team’s six games this season and while Preston have lost twice, both defeats have only been by a single goal against decent-enough opposition. Brentford to Win and Under 2.5 feels like the way to go with plenty of value.
Stoke have been handed some tough fixtures to kick off this campaign and they face another in the shape of the much-improved Birmingham City. Blues were a disaster zone after lockdown last term, but the arrival of Aitor Karanka over the summer has steadied the ship and they’ll fancy their chances of getting something against The Potters.
Karanka has quickly put his mark on Birmingham, and by mark, I mean 25 men battered and bruised as he aggressively whips them into some kind of respectable shape. The result may not be pretty, but it’s proven effective for a club that finished last season in free fall.
This term has seen just three goals in their three games as a surprise opening-day win against Brentford has been followed by draws with Swansea and Rotherham. You may not be surprised to hear it’s not exactly been a thrill-a-minute up at Stoke, either. They’ve seen the same number of goals across their three games including a first-day draw, defeat to Bristol City and then a narrow win against 10-man Preston last week.
This is all pointing us towards a low-scoring affair and I’m trying my best to avoid suggesting the 0-0 draw. However, to play it a bit safer, I think both teams will be happy enough with a dull Draw and Under 2.5 Goals which both has a nice price and looks the most-likely outcome in this one.
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