Five seasons ago, it would have been inconceivable that Stoke City would be playing in Europe although the glory days are returning to the Britannia Stadium after the Potters reached last season’s FA Cup final.
Their reward is a third round qualifying tie against Hajduk Split, a team that finished second in the Prva HNL last season and they actually went as far as the Champions League quarter finals in 1995.
Even so, it is a modest team that will be arriving in the Potteries this week and Stoke are strong favourites at 8/13 (Stan James – £25 free bet) to claim victory in front of a vociferous home crowd ahead of next week’s trip to Croatia.
This is a whole new experience for most of the City players, although Tony Pulis will ensure his team are focused on the task in hand and Stoke’s direct style might come as a culture shock to a Hajduk team who operate at a lower standard every week.
You can back Stoke at odds of 11/8 (bet365 – £200 free bets) to lead at half-time and full-time in this match, while the home side are 7/2 with Ladbrokes to win the first leg after being all square at the break.
Hajduk Split will aim to keep things tight and give themselves a fighting chance of going through in the second leg, with Victor Chandler offering 11/4 that the game ends all square and Paddy Power going 5/1 that the visitors win.