The games are coming thick and fast right now and after a 4,000 mile round trip during the week United must once again turn their attention back to the Premier League.
Stoke City are the visitors to St James’ Park with the Potters looking to record a league double over United for the second time in three years. The previous two seasons have yielded league doubles for both teams with Stoke winning at the Britannia and St James’ Park back in 2010/2011 only for United to level that up with their own league double (3-1 at Stoke and 3-0 at St James’ Park) last season.
A look at the fixture list for this weekend fills me with hope and dread in equal measure. It’s one of those weeks where teams around us and below us seem to be playing each other so a win would be handy whilst a defeat could drag us deeper into trouble. A two goal win will see us overtake Stoke in the table whilst a defeat combined with a Southampton win of any kind will see us drop one place in the league standings. That’s how finely things are balanced folks.
United are hopeful that Papiss Cisse will have recovered from the illness that kept him out of the trip to Russia on Thursday. Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul are definitely out whilst there are unconfirmed reports regarding the availability Hatem Ben Arfa who, according to press reports, suffered a dead leg on Thursday night. Personally I think it seems funny that none of the local journalists have mentioned it but still…
Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic are both still sidelined however Alan Pardew will be boosted by the return of Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy, both of who were ineligible to play in the Europa League during the week.
Matthew Etherington is struggling with a back injury but could still be selected by Tony Pulis. Michael Owen is actually fit to play after recovering from a thigh injury. Robert Huth serves the second game of his three-match ban after retrospective action from the FA was taken when TV cameras picked up Huth aiming an elbow at Fulham defender Philippe Senderos.
Stoke turned things round late on at the Britannia earlier on in the season. Two goals in the final nine minutes gave the Potters the victory after Papiss Cisse had given United the lead just after half-time.
Overall our record is good against Stoke, especially at St James’ Park. United have hosted Stoke 38 times, going on to record victory on 27 of those occasions. There have been seven draws between the two sides with Stoke winning at St James’ Park just four times.
At both grounds, and in all competitions, United still have the upper hand. The total of 78 games have yielded 36 wins for the Magpies, 24 wins for Stoke with 18 draws making up the numbers.
Stats and facts:
Mike Williamson is still waiting to make his 100th appearance for United. Any appearance, even 10 seconds at the end of the game, will do!
Michael Owen is the deadliest marksman in the league this season. His one shot on target has yielded one goal meaning that he has a 100% chance conversion rate!
United have managed to keep just one clean sheet in the last ten league games and have conceded 23 times during this period.
Stoke have the worst form in the league when you count results from the turn of the year. In 2013 they’ve picked up just four points from eight league games.
Stoke have failed to score on 12 occasions this term meaning they’ve fired more blanks than any other team.
Stoke have only had 19 shots on target from outside the box in the league this season, 12 fewer than Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.
It’s another home game so the target simply has to be three points. We know what Stoke will bring and I’m always wary of looking at recent form as it can turn at any moment so we’ll need to guard against that. Tiredness might play a part after the long trip in midweek but I don’t see it being a problem as we rested/left behind enough first team players to inject some freshness into the side.
If we play to our potential we should win the game. Robert Huth will be a big miss for them and the thuggish nature of his play not being on display will benefit our attackers and allow them to do their stuff hopefully although they have other players who can be just as dirty. Just ask Arsenal…
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 10th March, 2013
Venue: St James’ Park