What a weekend we've had: Liverpool and City going toe-to-toe in a seven-goal thriller, Arsenal being blown away in a three-minute south coast second-half blizzard, Tottenham's destruction of Everton, Chelsea having no answer to Leicester's energy, and West Ham suddenly playing like Brazil, week 23 of the Premier League has been a stormer, and it's not over yet! Stoke City travel to Manchester United having announced Paul Lambert as their new manager. Will the Potters raise their game in an effort to impress their boss and come away with a much needed three points?
MANCHESTER UNITED 4 V 0 STOKE CITY
ALL MATCH ODDS | The Potters to crack under pressure
An interesting game awaits at Old Trafford tonight as Jose’s Red Devils welcome a Stoke City in disarray; a team who’ve parted ways with manager Mark Hughes, appointed Paul Lambert (though too late to take the reins tonight) and who languish in 18th place in the table, in desperate need of points to stave off relegation.
Three points for United will see them cement second spot, with 50 points, three more than Liverpool in third. And, if that wasn’t incentive enough, the rumour mill citing Alexis Sanchez’s imminent arrival from Arsenal should see Mourinho’s troops step up their own game in an effort to impress the boss, especially since they stuttered their way through the festive period, failing to win four games on the bounce and getting knocked out of the League Cup by Bristol City. True, they recovered somewhat, beating Derby 2-0 in the FA Cup, the same scoreline in which they beat Everton the Monday before. The often-maligned Jesse Lingard has been their saviour in recent times and it could fall on his young shoulders to get the Red Devils purring tonight.
As mentioned, Stoke parted ways with Mark Hughes last Saturday, their FA Cup defeat to Coventry being seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back. That defeat was their third on the bounce, with just one win and one draw in their last eight. Stoke have underperformed massively this term, and are in sore need of a change of direction. The ‘new manager bounce’ is there for all to see with relegation rivals West Ham and Crystal Palace seemingly finding their groove and pulling away from the vortex at the bottom. One crumb of comfort for the Potters is the fact that they managed a 2-2 draw back in September against United, German star Eric Choupo Moting netting twice for the Potters. However, both teams had a different mindset back then and it’s hard to envisaged a similar outcome tonight. The Potters will need to dig in, graft, and hope the likes of new signing Moritz Bauer can hit the ground running and provide the defensive steel Stoke are in need of.
Valencia is still a major doubt for Man. U, whilst Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Michael Carrick are all long-term absentees. Ryan Shawcross faces a late fitness test, and Stoke will be desperate for the ex-United defender to pass muster. Erik Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi have been announced fit by stand-in boss Kevin Russell, though Glen Johnson remains sidelined through injury.
Poss. Man U XI: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Lindelof; Matic, Pogba, Lingard, Mata; Rashford, Lukaku
Poss Stoke XI: Butland; Bauer, Zouma, Wimmer, Pieters; Allen, Adam, Cameron, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Crouch.
What We Sayin’?
United are unbeaten in Premier League home fixtures against Stoke, taking 25 from a possible 27. The September 2-2 draw aside, we can see this one returning to form, with Stoke without a win away at United since 1976 (17 games). Given Stoke’s abysmal record against the top five this season, conceding 26 and scoring just five, that record looks like being 18 games come the final whistle. With this in mind, we’re plumping for:
- BTTS - No | 4/6
- United to win to nil | 9/10
- United to win both halves | 13/10
- Lingard 1st GS | 3/1
- Lingard anytime GS | EVS
- United to win by more than 2 | 7/5
- United to win 3-0 | 6/1
- United to win 4-0 | 9/1
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