January 1, 12:45 BST
Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
In a brand new year, Stoke City will host Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke City will look to continue their decent form to try and finish in the top half of the table, come the end of the season. They kept a clean sheet in their last 2 games, and will want to continue that defensive solidity against Louis van Gaal’s side.
Manchester United are in a rich vein of form, having been unbeaten in the last 9 games, and will try and take all 3 points to consolidate their position in the top 4. With at least one of Southampton and Arsenal poised to drop points, it will be their chance to put some daylight between them and the teams below.
Team News and Tactics
Stoke City were able to take all 3 points against Manchester United in the corresponding fixture last season, making it their first win over their erstwhile rivals in 13 attempts. They will also take heart from their performance at Old Trafford this season, where they could have had success again if it were not for an inspired performance from David de Gea. With a run of 2 wins on the trot, they’ll want to ensure they make it 3 and stop United’s unbeaten run.
However, the injury list for Stoke is certainly a concern, with manager Mark Hughes without Victor Moses, Peter Odemwingie and Steve Sidwell. Chances are that Phil Bardsley could make a return. Even Bojan Krkic is a very doubtful case, having suffered a hamstring injury in the game against Everton.
It will be interesting to see if Mark Hughes will be able to outmuscle his former club just like he did against Arsenal. A rough approach would certainly be helpful in disrupting United’s flow, and Stoke certainly have the players to do that. However, the pertinent question would be whether they will be able to take their chances and convert them.
Predicted Line Up: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Walters, Diouf, Arnautovic; Crouch
After a disastrous start to the season, Louis van Gaal has been able to steady the Manchester United ship, which has seen the club go on a 9 match unbeaten run. They have taken 23 points out of a possible 27, which sees them sitting pretty in 3rd place. With the January transfer window opening, they would want to sign some more players to plug the obvious holes in the team, especially in defence.
However, one of the major problems the manager has had to deal with throughout the season is the number of injuries suffered by the team. The trend continues even into the new year, with Marcus Rojo, Adnan Januzaj, Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini all likely to miss. There was a bit of good news though with Angel di Maria back in training and could possibly play as well. Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling have also returned, and they could start the game as well.
Van Gaal would want to maintain the good form of the team and will be looking at Wayne Rooney once again to provide the firepower. Rooney is just 2 goals away from becoming the first player in the Premier League era to score 10 goals in 11 consecutive seasons. He is in bright form too, having scored 5 goals in last 7 seven league games.
Predicted Line Up: De Gea; Shaw, Smalling, Jones, Rafael; Carrick; Young, Rooney, Mata; Falcao, Van Persie
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 9 league games, but have won only 2 of their last 11 away games.
- Robin van Persie has a very good record against Stoke, having scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.
- Of the 11 Premier League games that Manchester United have played on New Year’s Day, they have lost only 2 times, winning 6.
Games come thick and fast in the festive season in the Premier League, and both teams will have players with tired legs. With neither team having a fully fit squad either, they will have to play the same players again, without any rest. It could well mean that both means won’t be too adventurous and could end in a draw.
Predicted Score: Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United