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Nic Ladds 23rd Oct 2010 - 18:11

The perfect time for a Stoke surprise?

Manchester United will have to put all their issues off-the-field to one side as they travel to Stoke to get their title challenge back on track. After Chelsea's win on Saturday, the Red Devils are already eight points off the top.

The main man, about who all the recent furore has been about, Wayne Rooney will sit this match out - as well as the next few weeks with the recurrence of his ankle injury.  There has been so much focus on him this week, I think it's time we put the spotlight back on the football.

Stoke (4/1) are a decent price for me, against a United side who have won just one of their last eight Sunday away matches.  When you factor in a European hangover as United played on Wednesday - I think Stoke could have a great chance of an upset.

Manchester United (8/11) are yet to win on the road in the league season, four draws in four matches.  When you factor that in and the lack of firepower with no Rooney - the draw could be a good punt at 5/2.

Stoke have had a pretty solid start to the season as you might expect, ten points from eight matches and are comfortably mid-table. Where you have to be wary is when you look at Stoke's record against the big three. They lost all six home and away last season, conceding 20 goals and scoring just two.

The value bet for the day for me is Stoke on the double chance market, to get them coupled with the draw at 23/20 is a great bet. Even if you are backing United, a punt on that double chance could help cover your bet and with United's susceptibility to drawing away from home, I would be wary of the visitors.

The man in form for Man United is Dimitar Berbatov, who has really stepped up in the absence of Wayne Rooney. He has hit seven goals already this season, six in the league. Although these scrappy games away from home are not usually his favourite type, he can be backed at 4/1 to continue his scoring form first.

For the home side, Kenwyne Jones is the main scoring threat. Although not prolific he has chipped in with a solid four goals so far and with Etherington providing the crosses, his aerial ability is always a threat. Jones can be backed at 7/1 to score first or 2/1 anytime.

When looking at a correct score bet, if Stoke are to win, their lack of goals so far this season points to a slender 1-0 win, and looks tasty at 11/1.

The more you look in to this match though, the more likely the draw looks and with United's previous two Sunday matches this season ending 2-2 (18/1), I can see another draw. 0-0 is at 9/1 if you think the sides will fire a blank but the 1-1 (13/2) draw could be the best bet.

With all the focus and exposure that has been placed upon Sir Alex Ferguson and his team over the last few days, this is the perfect time for Stoke to up their game and come out all guns blazing. If Tony Pulis' men really take the game to United, who are without Evans, Giggs, Owen and Valencia - we could have a shock on our hands.



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