Stoke City and Manchester United both sit in rather different positions in the Premier League table at this current time, Stoke’s years of uncompromisingly physical football appear to have caught up with them as Tony Pulis’ men have found themselves slipping down the table since Christmas with the Potters now fully involved in a relegation dogfight. Conversely Manchester United have gone from strength to strength over the span of the same time period with Sir Alex Ferguson leading his charges to a twelve point lead at the top of the Premier League with just seven games left to play.
Stoke know they need to start picking up points with the teams around them winning some key games, in particular Aston Villa and there is a high probability that Stoke will have taken some minute solace in the fact Manchester City overcame United at Old Trafford on Monday to prove the league leaders were not unbeatable as they had seemed in the last ten matches however if Premier League history has taught us anything it is that there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded Manchester United side under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Stoke City will hope to recover from last weekend’s defeat at home to Aston Villa however with the upcoming fixture against Manchester United being at the Britannia Stadium there is an uncharacteristic lack of hope from supporters. Stoke City have not found their home stadium a particularly happy hunting ground this season with sections of the crowd growing particularly frustrated at Tony Pulis’ preferred style of football and there are sizable rumours floating around regarding Tony Pulis not seeing out the season as Stoke City manager if results don’t soon pick up. It could be said that Manchester United are in somewhat of a crisis of their own following two consecutive defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City which knocked them out of the FA Cup and reduced their fifteen point lead ahead at the top of the table to twelve. Manchester United will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat at all costs with Patrice Evra stating midweek that United expected to win each one of their remaining games.
Stoke City will have to continue their fight against relegation on Sunday with question marks still hanging over the fitness of several of their first team players. Matthew Etherington will be assessed before Sunday’s lunchtime kick off who is still suffering with a back injury, whilst Marc Wilson will also following a similar course of action with his fitness expected to be tested this weekend. Glenn Whelan has been in full squad training this week following a spell on the sidelines and it is believed he will return to the Stoke starting eleven following a back complaint.
Following his injury sustained during Monday’s Manchester derby, Ashley Young will be out for an approximate period of two weeks which means he will miss Sunday’s trip to Stoke, as well as Ashley Young, Manchester United will also be without Paul Scholes who is suffering from a long standing knee problem. Following Phil Jones’ impressive performance at the heart of the United defence on Monday it is expected he may keep his place in the side however Sir Alex Ferguson in this morning’s customary pre-match press conference did confirm that both Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic have improved their fitness enough to be considered for Sunday’s fixture.
- Stoke have won just one game so far in 2013 which has contributed to the Potters slipping into the relegation battle.
- Stoke City haven’t recorded a victory in their nine Premier League outings against Manchester United with Stoke’s last win in the League against United coming in the 1984-1985 season.
- Manchester United have scored at least one goal on every visit to the Britannia stadium since Stoke’s promotion in the 2008-2009 season.
Asmir Begovic has long been of interest to the top band of Premier League clubs with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all being linked with the former Portsmouth keeper in the last twelve months alone. Begovic has really pulled saves out of nothing when Stoke have had their backs up against the wall with performances against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium springing to mind. Begovic vs Van Persie does have the potential to be the real battle on Sunday afternoon with the Dutchman having not scored for over six hundred minutes of Premier League football following his last League goal for the club coming against Everton in February. Begovic will have a lot to deal with on Sunday with Manchester United’s vast attacking options however the Bosnian goalkeeper has always pulled out impressive saves in the past against Manchester United and will hope to impress Sir Alex Ferguson first hand on Sunday ahead of the summer transfer window. Asmir Begovic currently has ten clean sheets so far in the Premier League this season which is the sixth highest in the League.
Michael Carrick has become somewhat of a talisman for Manchester United’s season since Christmas with the former Tottenham midfielder putting in a fantastic string of impressive midfield performances which have contributed significantly to the Red Devil’s twelve point lead at the top of the table. Carrick has earned the newfound adulation amongst United supporters and will hope to continue his good form at Stoke on Sunday. It could be the perfect game for Carrick to do this with Stoke’s midfield having a tendency particularly when playing at home to press the opposition midfield quickly, this could provide Carrick with massive gaps to play through passes into which is something he has absolutely no difficult doing and if Nani and Shinji Kagawa are part of Sir Alex’s starting eleven their individual pace could well have a devastating impact on Stoke’s backline. A similar performance to the one put in by Carrick a number of weeks back at Loftus Road would be greatly appreciated by United supports and could well go a long way to securing three vital points in the hunt for a twentieth league title.
£20 bet wins you:
Stoke to get a draw – £75
van Persie to break duck & score first – £90
Rooney to score – £50
United to win 4-0 – £2020