Stoke City and Manchester United will square off on September 9 live on BT Sport and, if you're a fan of the former, it could be a tough watch.
With 10 goals and maximum points in the first three games of the Premier League, José Mourinho's United look like an unstoppable force this season. If that's not enough to give City fans something to worry about ahead of the TV showdown, United have dominated in previous encounters. Looking through the stats, Stoke have won just 28 times from 106 games. To add another layer of salt to the already gaping wound, the latest 18 Premier League battles between the two sides has only resulted in a win for Stoke on two occasions.
Hughes Has Hope, But Not Much Else on His Side
Put simply, if history is any indication of what's going to happen in the future, The Potters could get smashed on September 9. However, as always, there's a glimmer of hope and manager Mark Hughes certainly won't go down without a fight. Of course, the first helpful insight Hughes could have in the upcoming Stoke vs. Manchester United may be his familiarity with the Red Devils. Yes, the United that will turn up at the bet365 Stadium is very different to the team he played for between 1980 and 1995. However, there is a certain comfort that comes from knowing the spirit of a club and that could work in Hughes' favour.
Beyond this, the last two matches between the two have ended in 1-1 draws. On those occasions, Stoke's stifling brand of football allowed them to overcome any skill differential there may have been on paper. Now, things may not go the same way this season as United are playing better and City have remained fairly consistent. Indeed, from three Premier League matches, Hughes' men are one, one and one on wins, draws and losses. This could suggest another draw is on the cards, but only if United slip.
In addition to the keeper not conceding a goal, Romelu Lukaku (three goals), Anthony Martial (two goals) and Paul Pogba (two goals) are looking very slick this season. Beyond the individual stats, United have a shooting accuracy of 33% from 60 on target, a pass accuracy of 86% and a tackle success rating of 69%. Basically, wherever you look, Mourinho is getting the best out of his players and this looks like it will spell trouble for Stoke.
United Dominating the Betting Markets
If we take this line of thought and apply it to the betting markets on SunBets.co.uk, there are plenty of value bets out there. For the risk averse, a straight away win for United is currently marked at 1/2 and looking every bit like a dead cert. However, if you believe that things come in threes, a third draw could be a solid bet. Yes, as we've said, Manchester's finest will have to have an off day for this to happen. However, if there's one team that could cause a dip in form, it's Stoke (especially at home). For a draw, you'll currently receive 16/5 courtesy of Sun Bets' odds makers.
Of course, the online sports betting world is always awash with options and to stick with a straight result prediction isn't the best way to get the most value out of this game. Looking at the current dynamics, there's a strong possibility there will be goals in this game. If the game plays out as the formbook suggests, 5/4 on a Manchester United win and more than 2.5 goals is solid. Stoke could well pinch a goal, but it's unlikely they'll be able to stop the onslaught for too long. Of course, the counter to this is that Stoke won't score at all. United's 69% tackle success is impressive (even after just three games) and you'll currently find 11/8 on the away team winning without conceding.
For those that like to push their luck and rake in better returns, one of the most attractive wagers out there this weekend could be Lukaku to score first and United to win 2-0. Even though scorecasts are tricky to win, there's a ton of potential in this. The Belgian international is on red hot form and United haven't scored fewer than two goals in their last three Premier League games. Basically, if you're looking to take a punt on Stoke vs. Manchester United this weekend, the smart money would go on the latter. Even though you can't ever discount the grit and determination of Stoke, it seems as though their opponents are going to be too strong this time around.
Dan Smyth is a freelance sports and betting writer with almost a decade of experience in the industry. From football and boxing to MMA, Dan now covers a wide range of high profile events with previews, reports and advice articles.