Manchester United-Stoke City Preview
Stoke City welcome Manchester United to the Britannia Stadium on New Year's Day with both sides having cause for optimism ahead of the second half of the Premier League campaign.
Stoke (7-4-8) finished 2014 on a high note after claiming back-to-back league victories for the first time this season. Bojan Krkic's first-half penalty earned the Potters a 1-0 win at Everton on Boxing Day, and two days later, a brace from striker Mame Diouf gave them a 2-0 home against West Bromwich Albion.
Stoke will assess Spanish forward Bojan, who was substituted against West Brom on Sunday with a slight hamstring problem.
The Potters could again be without full-back Phil Bardsley, who has an ankle injury.
Manchester United will monitor wing-back Antonio Valencia, who was forced off against Tottenham with a minor groin problem.
Midfielder Ander Herrera may return from a muscle injury.
Potters boss Mark Hughes hailed his side's festive season form as well as the team's overall development during the past year.
"I'm delighted for the guys because they have gotten that monkey off their shoulders now, having won back-to-back games," Hughes told his club's website. "They have worked tremendously hard over this difficult period and you have to give them enormous credit for that.
"It's been a good twelve months for us, and I feel we have really pushed forward as a club during that time. There are a lot of positives we can take from this year, and now hopefully we can build upon that as we move into 2015."
Stoke start the new year in 11th place with 25 points from 19 matches.
Man United (10-6-3) were held to an entertaining but frustrating goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday. The Red Devils dominated the first 45 minutes but they couldn't convert several goal-scoring opportunities.
United are unbeaten in nine league matches (7-2-0) and kick off 2015 in third place, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal was delighted with the way his side played in the first half at Spurs but disappointed with the number of missed gilt-edged chances.
"We lost two points I think," the United boss told his club's website. "We had the best performance of Manchester United's season in the first half, we could have scored four or five goals I think, but we didn't reward ourselves.
"I should have been satisfied if we had won today because then we would have had 38 points out of 19 matches and that is two points a match on average, which is very good."
Stoke have injuries concerns about Bojan (hamstring) and Phil Bardsley (ankle), although Jonathan Walters is expected to be fit after recovering from illness.
Van Gaal, who fielded an unchanged XI against Tottenham for the first time since arriving at Old Trafford, is likely to rotate his team selection at Stoke. Midfielder Antonio Valencia picked up a groin injury at Spurs and faces a late fitness test.
United beat Stoke 2-1 at Old Trafford on Dec. 2 in the reverse league fixture on goals from Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata. Steven N'Zonzi scored for the Potters.
The Red Devils have won six of their last seven league and cup games against Stoke.
The Potters have not keep a clean sheet against United since a 1-0 win in an old First Division match at the Victoria Ground back in March 1983.
Manchester United have won six of their last seven games against Stoke City in all competitions.
Their only defeat was a 2-1 loss at the Britannia Stadium last season.
The Potters have not keep a clean sheet against the Red Devils since a 1-0 win in a top-flight match at the Victoria Ground on 2 March 1983.
Victory would give Stoke three successive top-flight wins for the first time since last March.
The Potters have kept consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since September 2013.
They had conceded in each of their previous 11 Premier League runs prior to that run.
Stoke midfielder Steven Nzonzi ran further than any other Premier League player in the first half of this season, covering 214.8 km (over 133 miles).
The Red Devils have won just two of their last 11 away games in the top flight (D6, L3), although they are unbeaten in their last four (W2, D2).
All five of Manchester United's shots on target against Tottenham came in the opening 45 minutes.
The last time United failed to score in back-to-back league games was in December 2013 against Everton and Newcastle.
They have scored seven goals from outside the penalty area this season - the joint-highest figure in the top flight (along with Everton and West Ham).
Tag : Premier League