Teams: Stoke City v Manchester United Venue: Britannia Stadium Competition: Premier League Last Match: Man United 3 – 1 Chelsea Kick Off: 17 30 on TV on ESPN HD
Having overcome the considerable challenges of Arsenal and Chelsea during our excellent start to the season, United may well be in for their most difficult match of the season when they come up against Stoke City this afternoon.
Blessed with a watertight defence, knowledgeable manager and intelligent owner, the Potters have gradually established themselves as a solid Top 10 Premier League side since their promotion in 2008.
This season, Tony Pulis has invested heavily in his squad after securing Europa League football, and so Stoke City will most certainly be as much of a threat, if not more, as they were last season.
Having shown his true ability in recent weeks, after a nervous start to the season, De Gea will be in for a very testing trip to the Britannia today, where he is sure to face an aerial bombardment. Against the likes of Shawcross, Huth and Crouch, the Spaniard’s handling abilities will be tested to the limits but Sir Alex seems confident in the young man’s abilities, regardless of the opposition.
Crucially, Rio Ferdinand is expected to return, having trained all week, but Chris Smalling’s place seems more uncertain as he seems likely to face a late fitness test. Elsewhere across the back line, Patrice Evra may find himself on the bench (as he did last year at Stoke) as Sir Alex tries to increase the height of our back four to deal with Stoke’s considerable aerial threat.
Up front, Sir Alex has a whole host of options, with all seven first team strikers available, but it seems most likely that Rooney will continue up front with Hernandez, who has made a miraculous recovery from Ashley Cole’s horror tackle. On the bench, Berbatov, Welbeck and Owen will all be hoping to come on having put forward their cases admirably against Leeds.
Predicted Line Up
Key Clash- Cameron Jerome v Rio Ferdinand
Although Rio is a vastly experienced defender, he won’t get a moment’s peace today with Stoke’s £4 million summer signing, Jerome, intent on making his life difficult with his incessant running and chasing.
Arguably not a natural goal-scorer, with only 37 goals in 181 appearances for Birmingham, Jerome has gained a reputation as a hard-working striker who is more valuable as a team player than an individual. Considering this, Jerome will be keen to hurry Ferdinand whose fitness at the moment is still in question.
One To Watch- Robert Huth
As Stoke City’s Player of the Year last season, The Berlin Wall is a key member of the Potters’ side whose vast frame and experience has been key to their success since his £5 million move from Middlesbrough in 2009.
Incredibly commanding in the air, Huth will not only be an intimidating figure at the back but be a huge threat going forward during set-pieces, which Stoke are so well known for.
My Prediction- Stoke City 1 – 2 Man United
Although I don’t expect the match to be an easy affair by any stretch of the imagination, I think Stoke’s hectic schedule in recent weeks may catch up with them, leaving us to pick up the three points.
Podcast #10- United v Chelsea, Leeds v United, Chelsea and Pre-Match Preview
Check out the tenth Can They Score podcast, released this Thursday, where we discuss all things Red HERE.