A week ago and Stoke City would have perhaps felt that at least a point at home to Manchester United was possible with the Red Devils expected to comfortably beat Manchester City at home and move 18 points clear at the top of the table.
However, Sergio Aguero’s late winner at Old Trafford leaves the prospect, though still unlikely, of a late City charge for the title, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson determined that his United side will not make the same mistake as last season.
Thus, the signs are now looking ominous for Tony Pulis and his side as they face up to the prospect of a visiting Man Utd side hungry to win and put to bed any lingering doubts of a late-season collapse.
Defeat would leave firmly staring down the barrel of relegation. A run of one win in 14 Premier League games coupled with the improving results achieved by the sides below them has left the Potters just three points and three positions above the drop zone after last week’s disappointed 3-1 home reverse to Aston Villa.
The Potters just appear to be going through a crisis of confidence at the moment. Their attacking play, never the most rapier-sharp, seems to have completely lost all it’s impetus while their defensive set-up, described by Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas back in December as the best in Europe, is now continually making chronic errors.
Pulis has doubts over Matthew Etherington and Marc Wilson who are both struggling with back injuries respectively but Glenn Whelan is back in the squad after recovering from a back problem of his own. Up front, Stoke must choose between the both out-of-form Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones to partner Jonathan Walters while Michael Owen will be hoping for a chance to play some part against his former club.
The visitors will be without winger Ashley Young due to an ankle injury but Sir Alex Ferguson could be boosted by the returns of central-defensive trio Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, as well as veteran midfielder Paul Scholes.
Robin van Persie may be rested as his goal drought continues, in favour of either Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Stoke