Huddersfield v Stoke predictions: Playoff hopefuls could share the spoils | Sports News

Charles McQuillan

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Stoke manager Michael O’Neill

Charles McQuillan

Free soccer tips, best bets and analysis for Huddersfield v Stoke in the Championship on Friday.

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Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 7:45 p.m. Friday

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1pt 11-5 general

Team News

City are hoping Chelsea players Levi Colwill and Duane Holmes will be available after missing out on Reading.

Forward Nick Powell and goaltender Joe Bursik could make their first starts for several months. Romaine Sawyers is still absent.

Match Preview

Just three days after Stoke suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat at Coventry, don’t expect it to get any easier when they travel to the John Smith Stadium to face in-form Huddersfield.

The Potters won praise from Cov boss Mark Robins in their Tuesday night loss, but Michael O’Neill would have gladly traded the applause for points as his team continues to lose ground in the pursuit of the playoffs.

Indeed, just a shot on target would have been considered a minor triumph on a night when Stoke grabbed possession, played good football but failed to bother the home goalkeeper.

But while they struggle they are by no means out of the game and undergoing some sort of overhaul in January they can stay competitive in West Yorkshire, where the draw seems to be playing it.

Stoke have lost 11 times this season, including four of their last five. The last ten of those losses, however, have all been by one-goal margins, so they haven’t been returned. It was only last weekend that they clashed with Fulham and were beaten 3-2 against a team that had beaten everyone.

O’Neill brings in a glut of new faces, including Chelsea midfielder Lewis Baker, former England centre-back Phil Jagielka and Manchester City defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis, who has spent the first half of this season at shine in Belgium with Anderlecht.

More exciting than anything is the arrival of Villa teenager Jaden Philogene-Bidace, while equally heartening for the visitors is the return after three months of Nick Powell’s absence.

O’Neill is desperate to bring in staff to play his favorite 3-4-3 and the signs are that Stoke could be a team to watch in the final third of the campaign.

Huddersfield have already come to life. They were fairly boring until around November when Carlos Corberan made his changes, and the result has been a marked improvement in a side that are unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions.

Corberan is still a generally safety-focused manager and it’s probably best to overlook last Saturday’s action-packed 4-3 win at Reading, which was entirely out of place. Or at least Corberan hopes it was, because he won’t want to see a repeat of the defense that saw Matt Pearson and Tom Lees pulled from pillar to pillar by bad opponents.

Town have won just one of their last four home games – and that win was against a Blackpool side who were up front until they had a man sent off – and were beaten 2-1 at Stoke in September.

Indeed, Stoke, who are just six points behind Huddersfield with a game less, have lost just one of their last nine encounters with the Yorkshire side.

Key stat

Stoke’s last six away games have produced eight goals, all under 2.5 goals.

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