December 2, 19:45 BST
Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United kick-off their hectic run-in to Christmas and New Year with a Tuesday night clash with Mark Hughes’s Stoke City. Coming off the back of a convincing 3-0 win over Hull City, the Red Devils go into the match looking for three more home points to close the gap to thrid-placed Southampton to one point.
Lying fourth in the table, considering the horrid luck they have had with injuries, is quite an achievement by Louis Van Gaal’s side, but it is important they maintain the momentum they have built up in the last few games. Stoke City, meanwhile, go to Old Trafford on the back of a narrow 1-0 loss to Liverpool, where an 85th minute Glen Johnson goal denied Stoke a vital draw. Stoke are currently 12th with 15 points, just four points off the relegation zone.
Team News and Tactics
Record signing Angel Di Maria has been ruled out of the clash with a hamstring problem. The winger suffered the injury early on in the match against Hull, and is expected to return in early December. Wayne Rooney is expected to shrug off the knock he suffered against Hull and start for Manchester United.
Robin Van Persie ended his goal drought with a superb strike against Hull, and is likely to retain his place in the side. With Ander Herrera running the show against Hull, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Spaniard line-up alongside Marouane Fellaini in a combative midfield.
Manager Louis Van Gaal returned to his favoured 3-5-2 formation against Hull, so it will be interesting to see if the Dutchman persists with a similar setup against Stoke at home. Michael Carrick playing as a centre-back-cum-sweeper certainly allows United to build more easily from the back, so the smart money is on a similar team taking the field against Stoke.
Probable Line-up: De Gea (GK), Smalling, Carrick, Rojo, Valencia, Young, Herrera, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Van Persie
Stoke are expected to be without Steve Sidwell, Glenn Whelan, Victor Moses, Robert Huth and Peter Odemwingie. The Potters are on without a win in two matches after losing to both Burnley and Liverpool. Their record at Old Trafford hardly inspires confidence, but Stoke did win at United in February, so perhaps Hughes will look to draw inspiration from that performance.
“We will pick ourselves up [after losing at Liverpool]. We are a bit concerned about the injuries we are picking up, but there’s nothing you can do. With Steve Sidwell there’s a coming together of players and you can’t legislate for this. He’s opened his knee up and it’s very sore, but hopefully it is nothing more serious than that. We will have to check when the swelling goes down.” Mark Hughes, Stoke manager.
Probable Line-up: Begovic (GK), Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Adam, N’zonzi, Walters, Krkic, Arnautovic, Crouch
Stoke have lost their last 11 away games against Manchester United in all competitions.
Stoke’s 1-0 defeat at Liverpool was the first time this season they’ve endured back-to-back results in the Premier League.
Man Utd have scored at least 2 goals in their last 6 home matches against Stoke in all competitions.
Robin Van Persie has scored 10 goals in 9 Premier League matches against Stoke.
Manchester United have the opportunity to win four consecutive Premier League games for only the second time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson (after four wins in Dec 2013).
Considering the recent form of both sides and the injuries to key players, Manchester United seem to be the favourites to pick up three more points at home. Stoke City certainly won’t make it easy, but United are on a good run and should see off the Potters.
Predicted Score: Manchester United 2-1 Stoke City