Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Monday January 3 2011
Tuesday 4th January
There are not many grounds that us Stoke fans go to these days with any sense of trepidation, but Old Trafford is still one of those. Heavy away defeats over the past two seasons does not bode well, but we have broken our Premier League goal drought against them now in the 2-1 defeat at the Brit earlier this season and the Red Devils will have counted themselves lucky to take away all three points after their late winner.
Darren Fletcher has warned against any complacency with the Potters, despite our perceived reliance on the long ball. He told the Press Association: 'But that is not to neglect the football players they have. Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant like to get at you and dribble.
'Tuncay and Ricardo Fuller are good, attacking-style players who like the ball at their feet too, so they do have options and can cause problems on the ground.'
Wayne Rooney is a doubt after picking up an ankle injury at West Brom on Saturday. Other players likely to be missing are O'Shea (calf), Park (away on international duty), Scholes (groin) and Valencia (ankle).
Berbatov scored three goals over the Christmas period making him the current top scorer in the League with 14 goals.
Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant have been struggling with slight injuries during the busy Christmas schedule, but both seem to be still 'officially' fit. Robert Huth is available after his one match ban. Many fans have been critical of Danny Collins' recent performances but maybe tomorrow isn't the time to start messing around with the back four. Rory Delap is another who has frustated fans of late and the steep, banked sides of the pitch do not suit Rory's Rockets so maybe we could leave him on the bench and give Tuncay or Whelan a start?
Defensive players are often overlooked for man of the match performances, but never underestimate the abilities of Ryan and Robert Huth in central defence. My only concern is that his skippering duties may be slightly distracting him from giving 100% to the task in hand on the pitch from time to time.
Saturday 8th January: Cardiff (home) kick-off: 3pm FA CUP
Saturday 15th January: Bolton (home) kick-off: 3pm
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Date:Monday January 3 2011
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