Manchester United will be looking to continue their dazzling home form when they face a managerless Stoke City side on Monday night.
After falling 15 points behind their fierce rivals Manchester City currently sitting at the top of the table, United will be hoping to keep the pressure on the league leaders with a solid home performance against strugglers Stoke.
As for the visitors, they currently find themselves in a dire situation. After a 2-1 defeat to Coventry City in the FA Cup last week, Mark Hughes was sacked as manager with Eddie Niedzwiecki taking temporary charge. He and his Stoke side face what on paper looks to be an impossible task of getting something from the game at Old Trafford.
Despite a poor recent run of form, Stoke have caused Manchester United some problems at Old Trafford in recent years. A prime example of this was their Premier League clash in October 2013, when Peter Crouch gave the visitors a shock lead within the first four minutes.
Once Robin van Persie equalised just two minutes before halftime, many thought the first-half action was over. However, Marko Arnautovic gave the visitors another shock lead in added time during the first half, giving Stoke an unlikely lead at the break.
United struggled throughout the second half to find a way through a stern Stoke defence, however a quick-fire double from Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez in the 78th and 80th minutes was enough to give United a narrow 3-2 win in a five goal thriller at the Theatre of Dreams.
Despite to gaping gap between the two Manchester clubs, Jose Mourinho’s side have had a solid campaign so far – lost just one game this season. They are currently on a run of six Premier League games without defeat and have failed to score in just one of those games.
As for Stoke, their fortunes as of recent have been quite the opposite. After just one win in their last seven Premier League games, they sit in 18th place – just four points off the bottom of the league. Now without a manager, they face an uphill task of trying to overturn their recent run of form by pulling off what would be one of the biggest upsets of the season so far.
Mourinho will be without Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will all miss out with injury, however he is hopeful he’ll have captain Antonio Valencia back – who has missed United’s last four Premier League games after struggling with a hamstring injury.
As for Stoke, defensive duo Erik Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi returned to training this week after stepping up their recoveries from injury, and could be in line to feature at Old Trafford on Monday. Club captain Ryan Shawcross has almost fully recovered from a calf problem, however will face a late fitness test to determine whether or not he will be able to feature for the Potters.
Potential Manchester United Lineup: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Lingard, Mata, Rashford, Lukaku
Potential Stoke City Lineup: Butland, Zouma, Martins Indi, Wimmer, Cameron, Pieters, Allen, Adam, Shaqiri, Choupo Moting, Diouf
Jesse Lingard vs Charlie Adam
If Stoke are to get anything from this game, they will need Charlie Adam to limit the impact of United’s in form midfielder Jesse Lingard. The 25-year-old has scored four goals in his last four games in all competitions, and has recently become a key member of Mourinho’s attacking lineup.
It looks likely Adam will be tasked with marking the Englishman, and judging by his recent run of form, limiting Lingard’s impact would go a long way towards limiting United’s attacking threat during the game.
With Manchester United averaging 3.5 goals per game at home this season and with Stoke having conceded 17 goals in their last seven Premier League games, expect plenty of attacking threat from the hosts.
Stoke will also have the 5-0 loss to Chelsea in their last Premier League outing in the back of their minds, and will do all they can to prevent a similar scoreline from taking shape. With the visitors also on a run of back-to-back Premier League games without scoring, it’ll be a tough task to break their drought against a United side who have conceded just five home goals all season.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City