Premier League Soccer Picks: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 7:29 PM GMT

Stoke City welcomes third-place Manchester United to Britannia Stadium on New Year’s Day in a game the Red Devils need to push Chelsea and rivals Manchester City and one with some decent odds to play the favorite.

Odds Overview
Stoke City vs. Manchester United, Thursday 12:45 (NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra (US), 7:45 a.m. ET/4:45 a.m. PT): The second half of the 2014/2015 English Premier League season kicks off with this Week 20 match from Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent between host and 11th-place Stoke City (7-4-8 21 GF-23 GA) and third-place Manchester United (10-6-6, 33 GF-19 GA).
Odds makers have made visitors Manchester United rightful -105 favorites on the soccer odds with Stoke City at a sweet +333 underdog for a home team and the Draw priced at +260 (bet365). The Total Goals is set at 2½ Under -125 (Over +100, bet365) while the Both Teams To Score odds with the best price on the Yes (-120; No -105) on the Oddschecker screen showing is being offered at BetVictor. A prop wager worth consideration is potentially close contests like this: Draw No Bet is lined at -250 for Manchester United and +175 for Stoke City (Skybet).


Stoke City FC
Stoke City (4-1-4 Home, 11 GF-11 GA) and manager Mark Hughes are right where they usually are in the Premier League table—right smack dab in the middle (11th place) with little fear of being relegated and little hope of qualifying for a UEFA tournament spot. And the Potters 4 wins and 4 losses and 11 GF and 11 GA here at home at Britannia shows just how 50/50 this club really is. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has been solid for Stoke City so far this season but he could still use a little help from the Potters somewhat anemic offense. Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf (5 goals), Jonathan Walters (4), veteran 33-year-old striker Peter Crouch (4) and Bojan Krkic (3) do give Stoke City some solid scorers and Charlie Adam (2), Victor Moses (1), Ryan Shawcross (1) and Steven Nzonzi (1) can provide but most should be more prolific scoring-wise than they are for being at this halfway point in the season.
The Anytime Goalscorer odds for the Potters show Crouch (+350, Boyle Sports) and Krkic (+350) equally priced with Adam (+400) and Moses (+450) following, but this wager in this particular game is sort of a crapshoot as maybe one player tallies for Stoke and at these prices, there is extremely little value gambling on any of them despite the potential for this match to have some scoring.
The last time these two met here in Stoke-on-Trent (last season), the Potters won 2-1 but Stoke City doesn’t have a good track record of winning when playing mighty Manchester United and the Red Devils will remember losing here at Britannia Stadium last year and should be on their absolute best behavior. And they’ll have to be as the Potters have won their last 2 games (Everton, West Bromwich Albion) with Begovic registering clean sheets in both.

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Manchester United
Manchester United (2-5-2 Away, 11 GF-12 GA) sits quietly and maybe a bit surprisingly in third place in the EPL standings and just finishing in the top four and qualifying for UEFA Champions League football next season would probably suit the Red Devils (36 points) just fine. But this is the halfway point and this Manchester United roster is loaded with current and future stars and you know with some of the names and egos on this squad the Red Devils will think in their minds that they can make a run at the league title and somehow find a way to leapfrog first-place Chelsea (14-4-1, 46 points) and second-place Manchester City (14-2-2, 43 points) in the next five months.
Besides the revenge factor from last season’s loss at Stoke City, Manchester United also has some world class scorers going for them like Robin Van Persie (8 goals, +140 Anytime Goalscorer), Wayne Rooney (8 goals, +160 Anytime Goalscorer) and Radamel Falcao (2 goals, Anytime Goalscorer) and it also possess some really talented playmakers like Ángel Di María (3 goals, +260 Anytime Goalscorer) and Juan Mata (5 goals, +260 Anytime Goalscorer). When these two met less than a month ago at Old Trafford, Mata and Marcos Rojo scored in a 2-1 Red Devils win—a scoreline which has happened the last two meetings with the hosts winning both contests.

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Best Betting Approaches and Trends
With Stoke City riding a two-match winning and unscored-upon streak, expect Manchester United’s shots to be somewhat limited here, much like the Royal Clamp-Down the Potters tried to apply to Chelsea here at home in a 2-0 loss on Dec. 22 in which the Blues had just 6 shots on target. And like Chelsea, expect the Red Devils to capitalize on those limited shots and to get a couple of goals courtesy of one or more of The Usual Red Mancunian Suspects (Rooney, RvP, Mata) and find a way to get the win and the valuable three points.
In 5 of the L6 meeting between these two clubs—and the L3 in a row—both teams have scored in games averaging a robust 3.8 gpg so the Yes on the prop wager Both Teams To Score (-120, BetVictor) seems like a good trend play although Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and the aforementioned Begovic are superb when they are on, thus the -125 juice (bet365) on the Under in this match.
And as far as choosing a side here, this series has been all Manchester United with the Red Devils going 4-1-1 against Stoke City here at Britannia Stadium (9-4 goals), 7-0-0 against the Potters at home at Old Trafford and and an impressive 11-1-1 overall (21 GF-10 GA) in 13 meetings. And with that lone win for Stoke City coming against Manchester United last season when it seemed like the walls were crumbling in the wake of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure and the Red Devils sitting in a nice spot in the EPL table (3rd place) to start off 2015, this team with better skill position players and higher expectations than Stoke City should find a way to get that first goal and then go on to beat a team it traditionally has beaten on its Premier League schedule. Expect the play of Manchester United’s advanced midfielders to be the big difference in this Week 20 lidlifter on New Year’s Day.

Prediction: Stoke City 1 Manchester United 2

Free Soccer Pick: Manchester United -105 at Bet365, Both Teams To Score Yes -120 (BetVictor)

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