Media speculation would suggest that Mark Hughes could potentially force a sacking for Louis van Gaal, current manager of Hughes’ former club. After dropping five points in their past two games, Hughes and his Stoke players will not hold back on Boxing Day.
Stoke have fallen back to 11th place in the Premier League table after drawing 1-1 away at West Ham and then losing 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace. Many analysts expected them to kick on following their heroic 2-0 victory over Man City three games ago, but that simply has not been the case. Stoke have shown a real weakness in playing against their contemporaries.
Fortunately for Stoke, Man Utd have the status of being a big club. The Potters have proven in their league wins against Chelsea and Man City that they love to claim a high-profile scalp. The formula required will be to defend deep against the Reds and then catch them on the counter. However, Stoke will need to improve on their league-worst goal-scoring tally of just 14, which is the same as Aston Villa.
Louis van Gaal appears more and more panicked with every interview. A 2-1 home defeat to Norwich City last weekend saw Man Utd tumble out of the top four, allowing Tottenham to sneak into fourth. At this point, there is still time to turn things around and prevent a collapse. However, this might be van Gaal’s last chance to get a result.
There was no evidence against Norwich last weekend that van Gaal has his players headed in the right direction. Again the Reds dominated possession by controlling a 69% share, but they could only create two paltry shots on target compared to the four of Norwich.
Tip one: Stoke or draw @ 1.61 with ladbrokes
Tip two: Both teams to score @ 2.00 with ladbrokes
Stoke have experience in frustrating bigger teams. Combine this factor with Man Utd’s visible struggles and it would appear that Stoke have an excellent chance to claim at least a draw on Boxing Day.