Stoke v Manchester United
STOKE are in the midst of a dire run of results and possibly for the first as manager, Tony Pulis is starting to come under real pressure from his own fans.
Since beating Liverpool on Boxing Day, The Potters have picked up just six points from a possible 39 and they haven’t won since a 2-1 victory over Reading back at the start of February.
Away from the Britannia Stadium their form is at an all-time low – six defeats on the bounce – but it’s their performances in front of their own supporters that have perhaps been the most concerning.
Stoke have built their success in the Premier League on not only being incredibly hard to beat at the Britannia but also winning their fair share of games there. That has all changed in 2013 as they have won just one of seven and lost three – including defeat to the relegation-threatened Aston Villa last time out.
Peter Crouch has generally been the talisman for the club but he’s only scored five goals this term and hasn’t netted since January. Charlie Adam’s move from Liverpool hasn’t worked out as expected and the once fearsome defence have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 on home soil.
Manchester United will be crowned the Premier League champions with games to spare but did suffer a small setback on Monday night as they lost the Manchester derby at home by two goals to one.
While City are still 12 points adrift, that result will have hurt Alex Ferguson and I expect his players to be sent out on to the pitch on Sunday with the so called “flea in their ear”.
That defeat to their noisy neighbours was their first in the league since November, however, they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea the week before, although Ferguson surprisingly put out a weakened side at Stamford Bridge.
With just league games left to play and an easier fixture coming up on Wednesday it is likely Ferguson will play a near full-strength team for this match. That makes the 1.63 about them to win a must-back price given Stoke’s current woes. I just can’t see anything other than a United victory and Stoke will have to continue to look over their shoulder at the relegation zone.
Given Stoke’s troubles in front of goal and the fact The Red Devils have kept three clean sheets in a row away from home in the league, I think backing United to keep a clean sheet is fantastic value at odds against.
It’s trading at around the 2.2 mark and with Nemanja Vidic back in the frame after injury, it’s a stand-out price.
Robin Van Persie is going through his biggest goal drought in recent memory as he’s now failed to score in any of his last 10 for United. They say class is permanent and form is temporary though and he did score three times for his country during the recent international break. He can be backed at 5.3 to break the deadlock on Sunday and with penalty duties in his locker, it has to be worth an investment.
Back Man United @ 1.63
Back a Man United clean sheet @ 2.2
Back Robin Van Persie to score first @ 5.3