Opposition Scouting: Stoke City to be a dagger in Manchester United title hopes this weekend?

Stoke City fans will agree this Manchester United team is the best it’s been since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Jose Mourinho has settled and built the team he believes will win this title. It’s hard to see anyone catching United in this form but will that last for the season? Could Stoke be a dagger to their Premier League title hopes this weekend?

Stoke fans are always nervous at the start of the season, starting poorly most seasons under Mark Hughes. When the fixtures were released most fans and pundits believed that this could be the last season Stoke would have in the Premier League. With no incoming transfers apart from Darren Fletcher (formerly of Manchester United) and the loss of our top goal scorer last season Marko Arnautovic to a rival team, Stoke had been written off quite early. The performances last season and the players leaving the club had fans calling for Mark Hughes head. However, the acquirement of Kurt Zouma on a season long loan from Chelsea and also Jesé Rodriguez from Paris Saint-Germain have boosted our defence and attack. Starting with a 1-0 loss at Everton it was hard to see us picking up any points going into the tough fixtures that followed. A 1-0 win against Arsenal and a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion has lifted the fans but also the players who seem to be growing in confidence.

Stoke will need to show the fight and determination they did against Arsenal in the first home game of the season if they are to give Manchester United a tough game. When the big teams come to town you can expect a full bet365 Stadium even more so now as the new look stadium has a capacity of 30,089. However, with growth needs to come progression and that’s a big target for this season. Gone are the days of the long throw with a more attractive style of football being played. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Jese Rodriguez and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have all demonstrated this in recent games for the Potters.

The Manager

Under a lot of criticism from fans for the shambolic season last year, Mark Hughes should feel as this is his last chance at Stoke. Things look to be heading in the right direction for him as he’s been able to rebuild his squad with the backing of the Chairman Peter Coates. The caliber of player Hughes can attract has always pleased the Stoke fans, but the loss of Bojan Krkic to Deportivo Alavés and Marc Muniesa to SD Eibar have divided the opinion of the fans. You can expect a rallying call from Hughes in his press conference as he always urges the fans to get behind the team from the first minute to the last. A familiar face for the United fans who some will remember, but that will go out the window for Hughes as he pushes for a win at the weekend.

One’s To Watch

Ramadan Sobhi has Stoke fans talking after an impressive cup appearance against Rochdale scoring a sublime goal after rounding the keeper. The 20-year-old Egyptian winger signed for Stoke City in 2016 for £5 million and has produced moments of brilliance already when given an opportunity. He could get his first start of the season on Saturday with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting out injured. However, he may have to wait for his chance from the bench if Hughes prefers Jese Rodriguez to play on the left. A player with a bright future ahead.

He had the Manchester City defence on strings last season as he continued to grow and progress, but has found himself out of favour with Mark Hughes who has urged the youngster to forget about his wedding over the summer and concentrate on his football. Rodriguez has burst onto the scene with a bang after completing his loan move from Paris Saint-Germain in this rather misleading transfer window. With the 24-year-old having scored his first goal for the potters against Arsenal and a decent performance against West Bromwich Albion, the fans could see him get a goal for Stoke on Saturday or at least cause the United defence a problem.

Predicted Starting XI

Match Prediction

Having started the season well and with Stoke being a team with a reputation for an upset this could be an interesting game. However with the form of Nemanja Matić and Romelu Lukaku, I can see United taking the victory in this one, but it won’t be easy. Having won 4-0 in the first two games and 2-0 against Leicester I’d be hoping that United don’t think this game is already won, as we have got the quality to beat anyone on our day. My prediction is Stoke 1-3 Manchester United.

Written by Jordan Roberts  

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