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Prediction League: Sexy Stoke City

Once upon a time the only thing you had to be worried about when playing Stoke was whether their central midfielders were going to cripple your favourite player. Now there are other concerns.

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Will you be able to get past the league's most in form shot stopper? Will Shakiri, Bojan and Arnautovic finally click into gear? You superstar player might still get his leg broken as well, this Stoke team still has that option in it's locker.

There were eyebrows raised when the potters signed Jack Butland. He was England's young goalkeeping prince, heir to Joe Hart's throne and they had Asimir Begovic stopping him getting game time. Also, why would he go to Stoke City? It's in Stoke.

Well now it looks a great deal. They have recouped the money spent on Butland by shipping Begovic off to the Chelsea Comcedy Show and young Jack is pushing Hart hard for the England number one shirt. Saints fans in the Northam will have to sing "England's number three" at Fraser Forster when our half man-half tree returns from his long term injury.

Southampton have a habit of dominating games and coming a cropper against a goalkeeper having a world class game. Many consider this bad luck, I am starting to doubt the finishing ability of some our forwards. Pelle is a wonderous central striker. Genuinely world class hold up play and goals a plenty, but he isn't a natural goalscorer. No player in the league has had more shots off target. Couple with that Tadic's reluctance to shoot, Mane's less than controlled efforts on goal and Long's tendancy to fall over during one on ones, there's a good chance Butland might get the better of our strike force.

The other new concern is the suddenly sexy side of Stoke City. Shakiri is a wonderful little, mega-thighed midfield goblin. His pass to set up the goal that defeated Chelsea didn't earn him an assist but hopefully he received a hearty slap on the bum from his gaffer.

The dust has yet to settle on this surprise signing and I have yet to see a good reason for why it happened. For now I'm assuming shenanigans are afoot.

The very same shenanigans force Bojan to play football in Staffordshire. The former "next big thing" out of Barcelona took to life at the Britannia like it were league two football. All he needed was to stay fit and when the January transfer window came around he would surely be back with the big boys of European football. Sadly he took a twist to the knee and still working his way back to last season's form.

The third "sexy" player is Arnautovic. The ability, swagger and stature of an 80% Zlatan. Yet to find any consistancy but on his day looks a world beater. Those days can be few and far between as he appears to be colour blind to whatever kit Stoke happen to be wearing each week.

Finally the classic Stoke threat remains. Charlie, Glenn and Ryan. The backbone of the side share a common hatred of the opposition's lower limbs.

Luckily Charlie Adam mainly injures Gareth Bale. It's as if he has a personal hatred triggered by a traumatic childhood incident involving a freakishly athletic chimp.

Whelan covers a lot of ground and pulls off some quite magnificently awful looking fouls that convince people he is a functioning defensive midfielder. A member of the Cattermole school of stealing a premier league living.

Whilst Ryan Shawcross probably isn't that bad any more, the memory of him clattering into Ramsey like a drunk driver sticks in the mind. Maybe it was a one off. I don't know, I try to avoid watching Stoke City play football. Despite the injection of flair they are still the football equivalent of the phrase "Starring Adam Sandler".

To the predictions:

WRITER POINTS
Jake 8
Dan 7
Merse 6
Connor 5
Lawro 5
George 3
Will 2

Lawro: 2-0

"Saints are confirming what they showed us last season, which is that they are one of the best teams in the league."

Merse: 2-0

"Southampton are playing well at the moment, playing some decent football and have formed themselves around Graziano Pelle. He keeps on going even in the tough situations. I see them continuing their form here at St Mary's."

Jake: 0-0

"Southampton play well but struggle to get beyond an in-form Jack Butland throughout the game."

George: 1-1

"Saints to go ahead first half, before Mame Biram Diouf to equalise in the second."

Dan: 2-1

"Will be tough but we have the right mix of guile, brute force and magic up top to nick it."

Will: 1-0

"Still not convinced by the post-Pulis Stoke. Maybe there is lingering hatred from all the atrocities committed by Pulis era Stoke."

Connor: 2-1

"Stoke don't concede often, but they've only scored five times in the last six games. Saints to win with a clean sheet."