Manchester United will be aiming to secure a semi-final place in the Capital One Cup with victory against Stoke City at the Britannia tomorrow night.
The trophy might not have been high on the agenda at Old Trafford in recent seasons but with United’s title challenge somewhat hitting the skids of late, the Capital One Cup represents a decent shot at silverware for David Moyes’ side in his first year in charge.
United have experienced an upturn in fortune with victories in their last two games after four games without a win and looked back to somewhere near their best as they eased to a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend, where Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley got much needed goals.
Meanwhile, Stoke have been on a good run of form having lost just once in eight games since a 3-2 defeat against United in late October, including a surprise victory at home to Chelsea. The Potters have lost just once on home soil this season.
David Moyes has a number of injury concerns with long-term casualties Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick still a way off returning to the first team. Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Vidic, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez are all doubts after missing the weekend victory at Villa Park but Darren Fletcher provided Moyes with a timely midfield boost when he returned from a lengthy lay-off through illness with a 20 minute cameo on Sunday.
Stoke has defensive linchpin Robert Huth ruled out with a knee injury and Charlie Adam is a doubt too. Kenwyne Jones may be called upon to lead the line as the striker has already scored four goals in the competition this season.
Moyes’ side have already seen off two Premier League opponents this term in Liverpool and Norwich City whereas Stoke bettered Birmingham City on penalties in the last round of the competition and advanced at the expense of lower league opposition in the second and third rounds.
United have already beaten Stoke this term where they twice came from behind to secure a 3-2 victory thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez that secured a late turn around for the Reds. Stoke’s last victory against United came in this competition in 1993.
Victory will be not easy for Moyes’ side with both sides close to a Wembley show piece and with Stoke typically very strong at the Britannia, a stadium which has been a fortress for Shawcross and co. down the years, United may expect a tough test under the floodlights (especially if it is a cold, wet Wednesday).
A trophy is high on the agenda this season for Moyes and this could be a springboard to greater success. If United do progress, just 180 minutes of football stands between them and a cup final and with Rooney in spectacular form as well as Danny Welbeck improving, it’s difficult to look past a second victory on the road in four days.
Prediction: Stoke 1-3 Manchester United