Stoke City will be hoping for a replay of their Boxing Day performance against Manchester United, only at Old Trafford this time, where they took out United with a comprehensive 2-0 thumping. They may not have beaten the Red Devils in their away games but have clinched victory twice in last four meetings with Louis van Gaal’s side.
Stoke’s head coach, Mark Hughes, has had to deal with multiple injury dilemmas this season with centre-half Marc Wilson, striker Peter Crouch, and captain Ryan Shawcross’s still in recovery phase. Although they stand 9th on points table in Premier League, their recent performances have suffered, with fourth round FA Cup exit and a defeat to Liverpool in the semifinal of League Cup being the latest slumps.
Despite all hurdles, Stoke City will be looking to bounce back in this game mainly because they have to. A Premier League trophy may not be a realistic target, but tussling for a European League place is. Here are top four reasons to expect a strong showing from Stoke in their forthcoming fixture against United:
A Wounded Animal Is Always More Dangerous:
Stoke’s more recent performances in the league have not been consistent, winning only one game out of last five. However, they have played a good first half of the season, beating United and Everton on the road. Mark Hughes XI will be visiting Old Trafford in a winning attitude and will be hoping his team will grab its first win at United’s home. It is not going to be easy as United would be looking for revenge but looking at their current form, it would be difficult to restrict Stoke strikers who won’t be shy in front of the goal.
With Silverware Out Of Reach, Playing For Pride:
The Potters are dismayed on all fronts this season by a lacklustre performance except in the Premier League. The only thing, now, on Hughes’ mind would be to steal a Europa League qualification, or push a little harder to at least start thinking about Champions League qualification which seems highly unlikely at the moment. Stoke are only five points behind the fifth-ranked United, and a win would make them serious qualification contenders at least temporarily.
Mark Hughes Looking To Update Resume:
Mar Hughes is one of the few stronger candidates to succeed as a head coach either at Chelsea or Manchester United since Man City has already announced the arrival of Guardiola at Etihad in July while all other big name managers are unavailable. A victory at Old Trafford will certainly put him in a firm position to push further for his first big club signing. His expected rivals, Claudio Ranieri, who is leading the chart with Leicester and Pelligrini, who goes out of contract at the end of this summer, are battling for the very top spot at the moment. Sooner or later, Hughes would have to start troubling both the contenders, but only with an injury-plagued squad.
Newer, Hungrier And Rejuvenated Squad:
The Potters have all the quality in the squad, especially after their recent record signing of Imbula from Porto, to upset the Manchester giants and push further in their upcoming fixtures against Everton, Bournemouth, and Aston Villa respectively. Potters’ playing XI will be utilising their energies to set a stage for themselves after being eliminated from other tournaments. Marko Arnautovic, the star performer for Stoke this season, with seven goals and four assists in the Premier League has shown glimpses of his talent. Other hot prospects include Xherdan Shaqiri and Jonathan Walters, both of whom haven’t been at their best this year, but if in form, have the potential to trouble any opponent.