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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Time looks to be running out for struggling Stoke

Tough run of fixtures may see West Brom in relegation scrap

Xherdan Shaqiri is Stoke's top league scorer with just four goals
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There is a lovely shape to the Premier League relegation betting with Swansea deserving their status as strong favourites but outside of the shot-shy Welsh club it looks like half the division could play a role in the fight for survival.

Crystal Palace and West Ham moved swiftly to solve their managerial issues and both seem better for it. They can be filed under the "too good to go down" banner and all three of the promoted clubs have cause for optimism.

Huddersfield have taken some hammerings but have more than held their own in key matches and lowered the colours of Manchester United. Brighton seem certain to solve their striking concerns and out-of-form Newcastle could have new owners in time for Rafael Benitez to go raiding in the January transfer window.

West Brom are in major trouble. Alan Pardew has not made any kind of difference since replacing Tony Pulis and they are still to go away to both Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

However, Stoke could have even more to fear with Mark Hughes fighting to save his job following Saturday's 3-0 home tonking by West Ham.

There's no firepower in the side - Xherdan Shaqiri is their top league scorer with four goals - and the formation looks a mess with Hughes switching between shapes which is usually the sign of a man under pressure.

Maybe the Potters can rectify the situation in January but too much of their money has been wasted in recent windows and apart from the goalkeeping position this is a squad in need of serious overhaul. Shaqiri, who can go missing anyway, has been warned off a move in January but could you blame him if he wanted to depart? 

Stoke, 17th and with the worst goal difference in the league at minus 20, can't be looking forward to their trips to Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea after conceding seven at Manchester City and five against Tottenham at Wembley.

Bournemouth have got enough about them to stay up, while West Ham and Palace found themselves in the wrong position through mismanagement before sorting themselves out, so it may be that Stoke need to think along the same lines to give themselves a better chance of survival. 

Local reports have said Hughes will stay at the helm for Saturday's huge game with West Brom but the bet365 Stadium is an easier venue for visiting teams with the home supporters on Sparky's back.

1pt 16-5 Betfair, Paddy Power

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West Brom still have to go away to both Manchester clubs and Chelsea
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