Date: 18th October 2012 at 8:29pm
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Chicharito: One of four attackers to score on international duty

Proper football is back again this Saturday, as the momentum killing international break is over and United host Stoke City at Old Trafford in the eighth game of the Premier League season.

Tony Pulis brings his squad to M16 looking for their first victory against us in 28 years, but they arrive after a very shaky start to the season, without much goal power, and without many points on the board.

Team news:

United’s front men all returned from international duty without any knocks.  They were all in form too – scored two goals out of Mexico’s seven, Rooney managed three goals out of England’s six, Welbeck grabbing two of England’s other goals, and Robin Van got one of the Netherlands seven. If Stoke wanted to face a front line that wasn’t in form, then they’ll be disappointed.

At the back, it’s looking Rafael, Ferdinand, and Evra will play, with Jones and Vidic still injured.  Chris Smalling’s may have cleared up by Saturday but it’ll be too early to thrust him back in to action.

Ashley Young might be in contention for a place on the bench for Saturday’s game.

For Stoke, Michael Owen misses out after picking up a knock in training (something rarely ever written…) and Glen Whelan carries a hamstring injury.

Peter Crouch is likely to start upfront after netting four goals so far this term, and former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Steven N’Zonzi, who was part of the surprise 3-2 victory for Rovers on New Years Eve will also feature.

Pulis has the rest of his squad fully fit, and will be looking to put his strongest team out against the reds.

Fast Facts

  • Robin Van has netted six goals in five appearances against Stoke
  • has scored four goals in four games against the The Potters
  • Sammy McIllroy, Jimmy Greenhoff, Danny Higginbotham and Ryan Shawcross have played for both sides
  • Tony Pulis hates divers. He’s highlighted Luis Suarez as a problem in this area, and will keep an eye on Ashley Young if he gets on the pitch on Saturday!

On the day…

Stoke come to Old Trafford in 16th place, after winning only one of their opening seven matches. Goals have proved to be a problem for Pulis’ men, and only one goal from Michael Kightly and another from Jonathan have added to the four that Crouch has put away this season.  The manager and Stoke City fans will have had their fingers crossed that Michael Owen would have started his career at The Brittania Stadium with more luck than he’s had in the last 9 years, but he’s not been able to get started properly yet, ending up on the treatment table after only two appearances this year.

With most of United’s first choice midfielders all playing in midweek, Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to make his choices in the centre of the park carefully.  There’s a tough few games coming up too, including Braga in the Champions League, two away games at Stamford Bridge, and a home game against Arsenal…it’s now that the manager will have to carefully pick players for matches and keep others fresh.  It’ll be a tough few weeks for him so don’t be surprised when he names, what may not be sensible to you and me, the odd curve-ball in his starting XI.

Have a flutter:

How about a cheeky bet on of the following selections – odds taken from bet365.com:

  • United to win 3-0. 10/1
  • RVP to score first in a 2-1 win. 25/1
  • Stoke to win by 2 goals. 40/1
  • Tom Cleverley to score first in a 4-0. 60/1

We’re having more Saturday 3pm kick offs, and these are more than welcome at Old Trafford.  It’s crucial to pile the pressure on leaders Chelsea, who face a tough game against Spurs this weekened.  It’s possible that we could just close the gap this weekend, and even if Stoke raise their game and put in their best performance of the season, I think we’ll bag the three points and go home happy.

Wherever you’re watching it, enjoy the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab