Manchester United vs. Stoke City takes place just over a month after Mark Hughes' men beat Louis van Gaal's side at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day.
That game saw an almost-entirely untroubled Stoke brush aside the Red Devils with relative ease, and looked like it may have marked a turning point for Van Gaal's United career.
That did not come to pass, and he is still in charge. Since that game, United have played seven, winning four, drawing two and losing one. However, there is still plenty of frustration with him and his side among supporters. Of those four wins, only one was truly convincing—and that was against Championship opposition in the FA Cup against Derby County.
Stoke, on the other hand, have played nine games since the two sides last met, as they faced a two-legged League Cup semi-final which they lost on penalties to Liverpool. Of those nine games, they have won four—though one of those wins was the second leg of that semi final, which was a win only in the most technical sense.
They have lost four, including unimpressive away defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace. They also lost on the road to Leicester City. That may be a fate plenty of teams have suffered this season, but the Foxes looked very comfortable in their 3-0 win.
Hughes, though, was in confident mood in his pre-match press conference saying, per the Potters' website:
We've done very well against the top teams, we've beaten Manchester United already this season we have the ability to do it again. I'm sure its not a fixture Louis van Gaal will be looking forward to and expecting three points from. We've beaten big teams at home and away too, like the recent win at Liverpool for example.
Van Gaal acknowledged the challenge saying, per United's website, "Stoke City are a team that every club has a lot of difficulties with. I saw them play against Liverpool and thought they were very good—they deserved to go through. I have to say that I like how Stoke play, very much."
It will be intriguing to see whether United can play with some of the freedom they showed against Derby in their 3-1 win on Friday night, or whether Stoke will once again get one over on the Red Devils.
Date: Tuesday, February 2, 2015
Time: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
TV Info: Premier League Extra Time (U.S. only)
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra (U.S. only)
Manchester United: WWDWLW
ManUtd.com reported that, "Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo are all out after operations." Van Gaal said of Michael Carrick's return to the side against Derby, per the club's website again, "He could only play 20 minutes against Derby, and I wanted to give him that 20 minutes because we need him playing regularly again. He did very well, and I have no complaints."
In worse news, Bastian Schweinsteiger could be out for a month, per German website Sport 1 (h/t Manchester Evening News).
Hughes is expecting Marko Arnautovic, Jon Walters and Glen Johnson to be available, per StokeCityFC.com.
The same article confirmed they are without Marc Wilson for 10-12 weeks with a medial ligament injury and that Shay Given hopes to be back in training soon.
After United's comfortable win at Derby, there would seem little need to change things up. Carrick may start ahead of Marouane Fellaini if fit, and Ander Herrera remains an option. Van Gaal may look to adjust things up front, replacing Jesse Lingard with Adnan Januzaj, say, although following the win on Friday night changes may only come if forced by fitness.
Stoke are blessed with a plethora of options in midfield and up front, and predicting who Hughes will select is a challenge. The above selection sees Bojan used as a centre-forward, but Joselu has often featured of late, and of course Walters or Mame Biram Diouf could all play there.
Players to Watch
Wayne Rooney is the man of the moment for United. With six goals in six games since the turn of the year, their captain is very clearly the man in form. His confidence was clearly demonstrated by how well he took his goal against Derby, and he will be keen to keep his run going.
Stoke are spoiled for choice for players to watch, but Arnautovic might just be the one to choose. He leads the Potters goalscoring charts with seven and has the most assists with four. He will be a clear and present danger to United's defence.
Anthony Martial caused all manner of difficulties for Derby's full-backs on Friday, and his clash with Glen Johnson could be crucial here. Johnson will have to be at his best to cope with Martial's relentless dribbling, and with the Frenchman likely to be ably supported by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, it could be a tough night for Stoke's right-back.
Manchester United: 7-10
Odds for the game correct at the time of writing, per Odds Shark.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.