The Manchester United road show hits the road this weekend with Sir Alex Ferguson looking to maintain that 100% Premier League record by taking the three points on offer at the Britannia Stadium this Saturday.
The game, being shown live on ESPN, will be the stiffest away test we`ve faced so far with Tony Pulis side looking to unsettle us in a way only Stoke seem obliged to practice in the Premier League.
It`s a game that could see our young side tested, even more so if faced with a physical approach and it`s a game we`re eagerly looking forward to.
Ryan Shawcross, who after six years at United lef tin 2008, sees the fixture tomorrow as a way of getting his sides season back on track and has commented about facing his old lcub,
‘Last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Sunderland was probably a bit of a reality check for us to be honest.’
‘But we move on now and must set our sights on another unbeaten run.”
‘It will be hard to start that off against United as they are a top team – but everyone is beatable. If we have the fans right behind us and perform in a way we know we can, we know we have a chance.’
It`ll be a tall order Ryan considering you`ve yet to take a point off of us in the Premier League.
Stoke Team News:
Tony Pulis, on the back of a decent finish last season, has bought sensibly this summer. The wily Welshman has picked up two decent centre backs, on free transfers, in Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson, both of whom supplement those already at the club.
He`s also recruited Peter Crouch from Spurs to add to a frontline that was already packed with powerful players.
In midweek, in the Carling Cup, Kenwyne Jones limped out of the action and may not be available for selection.
Player to watch: Ryan Shawcross
Once on United`s books this no nonsense defender is a stalwart in the Stoke defence and has been tipped for international recognition.
United Team News:
Having eased past Leeds United, in the Carling Cup, with a team that bore no resemblance to that which enjoyed a fascinating encounter with Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to return to the familiar line-ups that have seen United power to the top of the table.
The only doubts surround those players who have picked up injuries in recent weeks. Last weekend Javier Hernandez was the victim of a horrific tackle from Ashley Cole, although he has since returned to training, Sir Alex might choose a cautious approach with regards to an immediate return. Could the two goals from midweek, from Michael Owen get him a rare Premier League start?
Danny Welbeck is another who could partner Wayne Rooney with his hamstring pull, picked up against Arsenal in that 9-2 thrashing, now a distant memory.
Rio Ferdinand, who has missed the last three games with a calf injury, may well miss out again as Sir Alex looks to stick with Jonny Evans and Phil Jones a the heart of his defence, whilst club captain, Nemanja Vidic is also out injured. Chris Smalling, another who limped off against Chelsea might also be struggling to be 100% fit.
Tom Cleverley, who picked up a knock against Bolton Wanderers, is another who`s inclusion remains debatable.
We expect United to line-up something akin to this:-
De Gea, Smalling or Fabio, Jones, Evans, Evra, Anderson, Fletcher, Nani, Young, Rooney, Hernandez or Owen or Welbeck
Player to watch: Nani
An explosive goal against Chelsea has suddenly reignited the claim that our Portuguese winger is more than a match for the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo. If so, Nani needs to keep this momentum going and produce that kind of sublime finish every week.
Match Facts & Stats
Our record, in the Premier League, is excellent when it comes to clashes with Stoke City since the Potteries side won promotion in 2008. In fact it is so good we`re the only team to have won every game against them.
In the last six meetings, at Premier League level, we`ve stuck sixteen goals in the Stoke onion bag whilst having to fetch only two out of our own.
Stoke`s last win against us in a league victory came back in 1984, and ruined our Christmas, with the fixture being played on Boxing Day.
The Britannia Stadium is an awkward place to visit. Stoke don`t lose many games there and their robust style of play makes it difficult for teams to get into their stride. Often the emphasis is on the aerial ball and United will be wary of the danger Rory Delap presents with his special trajectory throw-ins. But United are a team playing with confidence and if the early storm can be weathered we can get a positive result, I`m going for a hard fought 2-1 victory.
The Champions League takes centre stage in midweek with a visit from the Swiss side, FC Basle. Next weekend we entertain newly promoted Norwich City in the Premier League.