Having last played almost a week ago, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have got enough rest to be able to field their strongest XI this weekend as they search for three crucial points from Stoke City’s trip to Old Trafford. They are closely followed by Chelsea, at the top of the points table and cannot afford to drop any points this game week.
The Potters have lost each of their last three games, the latest coming in the FA Cup against Coventry. They are now in the drop zone and are not expected to take anything from this game. But it will not be a walk in the park for the hosts, who drew the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Here is the predicted lineup Mourinho might field for this tie:
The Red Devils are still without the services of Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Michael Carrick, all of whom are ruled out for at least another couple of weeks. Antonio Valencia missed the last couple of games with a niggle, but is expected to be fit and back in action this weekend. However, they will miss Ashley Young, who is suspended for three games.
Expected lineup (4-2-3-1):
David de Gea has yet again been terrific in goal for Manchester United and will hope to have an easy night against the Potters. He will have to be helped by a CB pairing of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, a partnership that the manager has stuck with recently. Both players have not been at their best and are the weak links in this United squad.
While Luke Shaw’s resurgence could see Mourinho stick with the Englishman at left-back for yet another game, more so in the absence of Ashley Young, the versatile Valencia, who is just back from an injury, could be inducted straight away in the right-back role.
Though Mourinho used a 3-man midfield against Everton in the last game of the competition, they should move back to a 2-man midfield, with both Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba retaining their place as the first choice midfielders. Both of them need to have productive games to ease out a result in his tie.
Young Jesse Lingard was the best player for the side in the previous month and could start in a no.10 role while Spanish playmaker Juan Mata, who has also been in decent form recently, could retain his place on the right flank.
Anthony Martial has moved up the pecking order over Marcus Rashford and should start on the left wing while Belgian ace Romelu Lukaku will lead the line and look to get back to scoring ways.
Here is how they might line up: