Stoke vs Man Utd – Preview, team news, key battles and prediction

by Sam Peoples

Stoke City welcome The Red Devils in the first game of 2015. Manchester United come into the game off the back of a frustrating 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

On the other hand, Stoke are on a roll after beating Everton and West Bromwich Albion in their previous two fixtures. Stoke will take heart with the fact that Man United have a poor record away from home and Mark Hughes will back his team to get a result against his former side.

All eyes will be on Manchester United and LVG in this game after his comments in his press conference asking world football to watch his team go in 2015. I’m sure the players are going to be asked to put in everything they have into getting all three points, as there simply is no better way to start the New Year. Man United earned a hard fought victory against The Potters earlier in December, thanks to goals from Juan Mata and Maroune Fellaini. Stoke City are a physical side and cannot be underestimated one bit, especially at home.

Manchester United team news

Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw returned from injury and came off the bench for cameos against Tottenham. Ander Herrera also made the bench against Tottenham and he could get a start.

Marouane Fellaini will be a miss since his physical presence is something Van Gaal would have loved to have against a rigid Stoke side. Marcos Rojo is nearing a return but he too remains on the sidelines for the time being. Adnan Januzaj has returned to training but Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind also likely to miss out, although reports suggest Di Maria could return against Stoke. Antonio Valencia will likely miss out after picking up a groin injury in the previous game.

Stoke City team news

Stoke will keep a close eye on Spanish forward Bojan who was subbed off against West Brom with what seemed to be a slight hamstring issue. Former United player Phil Bardsley could make a return to the starting XI after spending time on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

Victor Moses, Peter Odemwingie, Steve Sidwell are also out injured for The Potters.

Key match-ups

United dominated the game and managed to keep Stoke City quiet for major parts of the game in the reverse fixture a month ago and they will be looking to do the same thing.

Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney are likely to be in midfield again and they were very ineffective in the second half as Spurs pressed a lot more in midfield.
Mark Hughes surely will have the same thing in the back of his mind, and Steven N’Zonzi automatically becomes a key player for the Potters.

Ryan Shawcross up against Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao will be a crunch battle and Shawcross is going to have to be at the top of his game to keep the two United forwards quiet.

Prediction

United should come out stronger in this game again simply because the desire to get back to the top is a lot higher in the camp and also because Van Gaal wants his team to do really well in 2015, so there is no better way to start the year than collect all three points against a strong Stoke side. Stoke also lack fire-power up front with some key players like Victor Moses and Bojan likely to miss out.

Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

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