Mark Hughes and his Stoke City side will have their work cut out as they host in-form Manchester United on Saturday after the end of the international break.
Stoke City have actually steadied themselves after reinventing their playing style under Mark Hughes, who has brought in players to suit his style. The former Manchester United player has decided to reinforce the defence this season, which has paid some dividend as they took a major scalp – a 1-0 win over Arsenal.
Manchester United, though, have been tipped to be one of the favourites for the title after a thunderous start to their season. 10 goals without response in 3 games so far, Mourinho’s men look primed for a title challenge. Two out of three arrivals have already had impact while Lindelof will be slowly integrated into the playing eleven.
The international break is unlikely to have much impact on either side and it will be interesting to see whether the home side can breach the United defence and vice versa. We at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Mark Hughes has the full squad at his disposal apart from the usual suspects – Ibrahim Afellay, Stephen Ireland and Julien Ngoy are out with injuries to their knee, leg and thigh respectively. With Kevin Wimmer arriving from Spurs, we may see Hughes stick to his 3-man backline.
Bojan Krkic could lose his place in the starting eleven to Maxim Choupo-Moting while Hughes will have to decide whether to go with the pace of Saido Berahino or the experienced head of Peter Crouch upfront.
Darren Fletcher will likely start against his old club and is likely to be the lynchpin for the Potters. Mark Hughes will want to make up the numbers at the back and look to counter whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer; Diouf, Allen, Fletcher, Pieters; Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Berahino
Like Hughes, Mourinho also has the clean bill of health except Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who are both nursing their cruciate ligament. Ashley Young is back to full fitness while Luke Shaw is still set to appear for the Under-23 side in order to gain full match fitness.
Romelu Lukaku has returned from international break in the same vein of form and will spearhead the attack while Marcus Rashford could be reinstated into the starting eleven after he played a starring role in England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.
Victor Lindelof is yet to be handed his first Premier League start and judging by the form of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, the Swede is likely to have to wait a bit longer.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Rashford, Mkhitaryan, Mata; Lukaku
1. Manchester United to win @ 1.50
2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @ 1.90
3. Manchester United Asian Handicap -1.0 @ 1.860
1. Paul Pogba to score anytime @ 3.40
1. King Henrikh? – The Armenian has the opportunity to match a rather extraordinary feat. He has five assists already and one more assist will see him match Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas to record the most assists in the first four Premier League games of the season.
2. Sad Saido – Saido Berahino’s dry run in front of goal is now 1823 minutes long, with the player having failed to score a Premier League goal since February 2016.
3. Managerial Wars – Mark Hughes is unbeaten in the last three matches against Jose Mourinho. Only Koeman has a better standing streak against the Portuguese.
4. Bogey Team? – United have recorded just a single victory in the last 5 matchups against Stoke.
5. Stoke have won just two of 18 matches against United in the Premier League. Although, both the wins have come at home.
Player To Watch
While there are likely to be several head turners that will take to the field on Saturday, it is Saido Berahino who could turn out to be the most influential, if he does start. The youngster is in a drought and Stoke could be in for a difficult match if he continues his struggles in front of the net.
Stoke City 0 – 3 Manchester United
Manchester United showed chinks in their armour against Leicester City – chinks, though, that Jose Mourinho would have seen himself and is likely to have prepared his men for the better. The Red Devils haven’t conceded a goal and are unlikely to leak one or more in on Saturday.
With Lukaku, Rashford, Mkhitaryan and the entire frontline in such great form, we could very well see another comfortable scoreline. We are going with a 3-0 win for United, with Lukaku to score atleast once.