Manchester United vs. Stoke City: EPL Preview and Team News

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United and Peter Crouch of Stoke City battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The English Premier League gets back into action Saturday after taking a week off for the international break.

One of the many matches on Saturday takes place at Old Trafford, where Manchester United will host Stoke City.

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Going into the match, United sit in second place in the EPL table, four points behind league leaders Chelsea.

The Red Devils will be looking to repair their damaged home form after losing to Tottenham in a 3-2 thriller in their last EPL home match at the end of September.

Stoke sit in 12th place with eight points and they have only failed to earn a point in one match this season, a 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

The trademark of the 2012-13 season for the Potters has been low-scoring draws.

The Potters lead the EPL in draws this season and have only once scored more than one goal, that occurred on September first in a 2-2 draw with Wigan.

Manchester United Enter Tough Stretch of Matches

The last thing anyone on the Manchester United roster will want to do on Saturday is look ahead to the upcoming fixtures that the Red Devils will face.

In the next three weeks, United will face a home-and-home series with Braga in the Champions League, two away matches against Chelsea, one in the EPL and one in the Capital One Cup, as well as a home EPL match with Arsenal.

United have plenty of depth to get through these matches but they may face some concerns heading into Saturday.

Delayed England Match Could Cause Selection Problems for Both Managers

With England's match against Poland being postponed to Wednesday, that means that five players involved in Saturday's match at Old Trafford will not return to their clubs until Thursday.

This is not a major concern for Stoke manager Tony Pulis as defender Ryan Shawcross did not play in Warsaw.

Fatigue could be a major concern for Sir Alex Ferguson as four of his regular starters featured in Roy Hodgson's side on Wednesday.

Midfielders Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, along with forward duo Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, played in England's 1-1 draw with Poland.

The good news for Ferguson is that he has plenty of players to cover for those four players with Robin van Persie a lock to start up front along with either Chicharito or Welbeck, who only played 23 minutes as a sub on Wednesday.

Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes could be called on to shore up the midfield for United with any combinations of Nani, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa to fill the rest of the midfield spots.

Potential Return for Ashley Young, Chris Smalling

Manchester United has been struck by many injuries to start the season, especially in defense, but there is a possibility that a healthy Chris Smalling could start in the back four on Saturday.

There is also hope that Ashley Young will rejoin the starting lineup as the winger has also been declared fit to play on Saturday.

United Still Face a Defensive Shortage

Having Smalling and Young return to the lineup is a step in the right direction for United but they still have Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones out due to injury in defense.

Ferguson may rely on some of younger players for the Stoke match as even bigger foes are up ahead on the fixture list and will want his big name players ready for the big matches.

Stoke Still Face a Goal Shortage

If there is one thing that Stoke need more than anything, it is goals.

The Potters currently sit in 16th place in goals scored in the EPL with just six.

The one man who can not be blamed for the goal shortage is Peter Crouch, who has four of the six Stoke goals this season.

If Stoke want to avoid any mention of the relegation zone this season, they will have to find another person to find the back of the net besides the lanky Englishman.


Manchester United 2-1 Stoke

United's shaky defense will not be able to hold on to a clean sheet against their opponents, but Stoke's inability to score multiple goals in a single game will come back to haunt them.

Look for United to keep it close until late, just like many of their matches, but they will be able to finish off Stoke in final 15 minutes through van Persie.


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