Darren Fletcher who was so brilliant in the mid-field in Stoke City’s drawn game of 1-1 against West Bromwich could be a doubtful starter when the Potters prepare to receive Manchester United at the Bet365 Stadium on February 9. Fletcher missed out in what would have been a key role in his country, Scotland’s 0-3 win over Lithuania at Vilnius on Friday thanks to a knee-injury sustained during the West Brom clash last weekend. Another Stoke player who will be returning back from WC 2018 qualifying duties for Wales will be Joe Allen whose role in the mid-field space will be of utmost importance in the United clash given Fletcher’s probable absence. The 36-year old Peter Crouch still has it in him as he showed with his 77th minute equalizer in the West Brom clash. The lack of form of the £12 million striker Saido Berahino is a cause of concern for coach Mark Hughes. The 24-year old Burundi-born forward is yet to find the back of the net in his 15 appearances since the 2016-17 season. Jese Rodriguez has had to fill in for the benched Berahino and the Spanish striker seems to be doing well in that space, having scored the lone goal in a critical 1-0 win over Arsenal. Along with Jese, Xherdan Shaqiri and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will complete the trio that will try to make inroads into the United defence on Saturday.
The Red Devils will feel confident on the back of three big wins to kick off the 2017-18 season. A host of stars like Mkhitaryan, Fellaini, Lukaku, Pogba, Matic, Rashford and Phil Jones will return from their international duties to feature in the Stoke City clash. Lukaku’s form is enough reason to send a chill down the spine of Stoke defenders. The 24-year old Belgian striker already has 3 goals from his 3 Premier League outings and has sent warning signals to opponents with a hat-trick in Belgium’s 9-0 crushing of Gibraltar last Friday in a WC 2018 qualifier. Marcus Rashford’s speed will be another thorn in Stoke’s defense as he showed in England’s 0-4 win over Malta, where a neat delivery from him resulted in Harry Kane’s second goal. The United defense of Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Daley Blind have hardly been tested so far in the current Premier League season given the supreme dominance of the team’s mid-field and forward line in recent times. But would the likes of the mercurial Xherdan Shaqiri, Jese, Crouch and Choupo-Moting make an impact in the United goal-mouth? We will come to know of it on Saturday, February 9.
The odds for a Manchester United win are currently at the time of review 1/2 (subject to change) and for the host at 5/1. A 2-0 win for the Red Devils looks the most likely outcome.
Best Football Tip: Man Utd to WIN 1/2