Manchester United look to put the heartache of losing in the FA Cup at Anfield on Saturday behind them with a victory over Stoke City at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were undone by a late Dirk Kuyt goal and saw their chances of winning the FA Cup for the first time since 2004 dashed in the process. United goalkeeper David De Gea was in the firing line for his performance against Liverpool and has been blamed for the Reds first goal. The Spaniard called in sick for training yesterday and is a doubt for the game with Stoke, along with Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard who has an ankle injury. Tomasz Kuszczak could stand in if the two goalkeepers don’t make the game. Rio Ferdinand is expected to start after being on the bench at Anfield, but Nani, Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are doubts after their injury problems. United are three points behind Manchester City in the table and are hoping to continue their league form after their impressive 2-1 win against Arsenal last time out.
Stoke come into the game with just one win in six outings and were beaten by a late Graham Dorrans freekick against West Brom last time out. The Potters picked up a good win in the FA Cup away at Derby and striker Cameron Jerome is in line for his first league start of the year after a good performance at Pride Park. Matthew Etherington is a doubt with a groin problem and is not expected to start against the Premier League champions. Tony Pulis’ side have been in competitive action since August with their Europa League fixtures and are still going strong in both Europe and the FA Cup. Pulis is not expected to make any deals for his side and is hoping that in-form Peter Crouch, who has six league goals this season, can trouble United’s injury-hit defence.
The Premier League champions have won 10 out of their last 13 games and are hot favourites to win this one, but Stoke will be resilient and not give United an inch. Ferguson will be hoping Pulis does not adopt similar tactics than those used against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, where his side sat back and defended. Without Rooney and Nani, the Reds lack that quality to unpick a defence and may struggle, but should come out on top in the end.
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