Aitor Karanka is beginning to craft his Nottingham Forest side in his image.


The Spaniard’s system incorporates two holding midfielders, normally Jack Colback and Adlene Guedioura, who give very little away.


The duo rank in the top five for most tackles for anchor men in the Championship and Yacob, who debuted when Colback was suspended for last week’s 1-0 home win over Sheffield United, is certainly not afraid to leave his mark either.

With a solid base protecting centre-backs Michael Dawson and Tobias Figueiredo, Forest have not been behind at the interval in any of their last 11 matches; in fact, five of those 11 have been goalless at the break.


Like Karanka, Gary Rowett had been a disciple of 4-2-3-1 but, after being appointed Stoke City boss in the summer, he has quickly realized that his squad doesn’t quite suit that formation.


Joe Allen is a selfless all-round player of Premier League class, Peter Etebo presses energetically, as we saw him do for Nigeria at the World Cup and Ryan Woods dictated play with consummate ease while at Brentford.


The trio are all jacks of several trades rather than masters of one, which suits them to the flexibility of the 4-3-3 setup rather than binary roles as an anchor man or a number 10 within a 4-2-3-1.


Stoke endured a sticky start but progress has been made of late with just one defeat in their last seven league encounters.


The Potters have not been at half-time in any of those seven games, four of which have been goalless at the break.


Going forward though, they have a narrow front trio of Tom Ince, Benik Afobe and Saido Berahino; Ince and Berahino are at their most effective when given space to roam in central areas and combine with Afobe.


At the City Ground though, it is likely that Forest’s two holding midfielders will deny them any space to combine centrally and, because there is not much width in Stoke’s team, they could be negated as an attacking entity.


With both teams likely to be focused initially on the defensive aspect of their performance, the first half could well be a stalemate and thus we’re backing the Half-Time Score – 0-0 at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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