Preview and Prediction: Stoke vs Manchester United

The New Year will explode into life with a full set of fixtures from the Premier League on New Year’s Day with Stoke City facing Manchester United in the early kickoff.

The Potters come into the game in the best form of their season, having only lost one of their last five in the league. They beat West Brom 2-0 on Sunday, following up an impressive 1-0 win at Everton and look confident.

Stoke’s home record: Played 9 – Won 4 – Drawn 1 – Lost 4

Though this will be another big test as Manchester United are also in fine form. The Red Devils have not lost a game since early November and have won seven of their last nine.

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However, their form away from home is not too convincing and the 0-0 draw at Spurs on Sunday was the second away draw in a row.

Manchester United’s away record: Played 9 – Won 2 – Drawn 5 – Lost 2

Mark Hughes watched his Stoke team beat his former club for the first time in 20 years in this fixture last season and that result should give the Potters confidence.

Louis Van Gaal has come through the hectic Christmas fixture list with a solid points return but is still without several first-team stars such as Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Angel Di Maria.

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The reverse fixture this season saw United win 2-1 in a close game at the start of December and this one should be even closer as both sides will want to start 2015 with a win.

Stoke have already beaten Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton this season and are always a threat in the big games.

Key Stat: Manchester United have won 13 of the last 15 meetings between the sides

Stoke’s last five: W/D/L/W/W

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

Key Player: Bojan – The Spanish midfielder has been a bright spark for Stoke of late and he will need to continue to impress if they are to get something out of this game.

Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United – A hard fought draw as both sides will want to start the New Year without defeat.

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Stoke City vs Chelsea

The final Premier League game before Christmas will see Chelsea visit the Britannia Stadium as Stoke look to extend their unbeaten run to three on Monday night.

The Potters’ longest unbeaten run in the Premier League this season stands at two so they have had a somewhat inconsistent campaign so far. But they seemed to turn the corner when the held off Arsenal earlier this month to win 3-2.

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The recent form of ex-Barcelona youngster Bojan has been the catalyst for their new attacking style of play as he picks up pockets of space and he ran riot in the first half against Arsenal a fortnight ago. He will need to be as effective against the Blues for Stoke to stand a chance.

Mark Hughes will have to be cautious against the league leaders however, because Jose Mourinho has a full strength squad to choose from with Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas returning from suspension.

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Chelsea will be looking to regain their three point lead in the Premier League title race as Manchester City went level on points on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

And with the return of Fabregas, Spanish international striker Diego Costa will have his supply line back in full flow.

Both sides are likely to concede in this one as Chelsea have only kept one clean sheet away from home this term and Stoke haven’t kept one at all since September.

Chelsea have only failed to score on one occasion this season but the Britannia is well known for being a tough place to succeed for visiting teams and the Blues have only won one of their last four games at Stoke.

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This is set up to be entertaining encounter and we expect to see goals in what should be an early Christmas gift for neutrals.

Score Prediction: Stoke City 1-3 Chelsea

Key Player: Eden Hazard – The Chelsea winger’s quick feet would cause any defence problems and Stoke right-back Phil Bardsley will have a hard task keeping him quiet on Monday.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes confirms Brek Shea is finalising move to Orlando City

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has confirmed recent reports linking USA midfielder Brek Shea to Orlando City are true, and he revealed that the deal is now being finalised.

Shea has struggled to make any sort of impact since moving to England with the Potters in January 2013 and a return to Major League Soccer should see him improve dramatically once again.

“We envisage Brek completing his move to Orlando,” Hughes said today.

“It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but he was in the building yesterday trying to tie it up.”

After thriving with FC Dallas from 2008-2012, Shea was expected to be the next USMNT star to make it in Europe. But that hasn’t happened and the 24-year-old will be looking to get his career back on track with a move to expansion side Orlando.

Playing regular action back in his homeland should also see Shea become more involved with Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team setup.

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After making 10 international appearances in 2013, Shea was on the right path but he missed the World Cup squad this year and only played twice for Klinsmann in 2014.

There isn’t any better way for Shea to enjoy a fresh start than with a side that has yet to play a game in MLS and Orlando will hope that their investment in him pays off.

Will Brek Shea be a good signing for Orlando City?

Orlando City to bring Brek Shea home to reignite career

Orlando City SC are closing in on the signing of US winger Brek Shea from Premier League side Stoke City, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio.

A move back home to Major League Soccer would give Shea the chance to reinvent his career, after struggling to find any sort of form, of regular game time in England.

The 24-year-old moved to Stoke from FC Dallas for £2.5 million in January 2013, but has made just five appearances for the Potters in almost two years.

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He has spent time on loan at Championship clubs Barnsley and Birmingham City in the past 12 months, but his loan spell with Birmingham ended on Saturday and Orlando are now prepared to give Shea an escape route from his English nightmare.

At 24, the left-midfielder has time to get his career back on track and a return to MLS should see that happen, while he will also hope to force his way back into US manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team plans.

He made over 100 appearances for FC Dallas between 2008-2012, with 98 of those coming in the regular season games and he scored 19 times for the club before moving abroad.

Shea has 27 international caps so far, with his most recent call-up coming in the friendly win against Czech Republic back in September.

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He trained with Orlando City last summer and so he and the club know that a deal will be the best thing for the player. Seeing regular minutes in MLS with a new expansion side couldn’t be better for Shea.

The chance to reinvent his career has come at the perfect time and Orlando have another strong piece to add to their squad jigsaw before the new season begins in March.

The deal is expected to be confirmed this week, and Shea must make sure he remains sharp and hits the ground running.

Is Brek Shea a good signing for Orlando City SC?

Jack Butland linked with shock move to Orlando City SC

Orlando City SC are lining up a move to bring Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland in on loan for the start of their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer, according to a report in the Daily Star.

The expansion side are looking to bolster their squad ahead of their first season in MLS, and a loan move for the England shot-stopper certainly shows ambition.

Butland, 21, is currently on loan at Championship side Derby but that spell ends in January and Orlando will look to bring him in for the first few months of the season.

The Lions have already acquired Tally Hall from Houston Dynamo but Hall is out until around June after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the last campaign.

Butland could gain vital experience abroad as a starter between the sticks, but any deal would have to allow the England Under-21 ‘keeper to return in time for the European Championships at the end of June 2015.

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Orlando have strong connections with Stoke City as president Phil Rawlins was formerly a long-term director with the Potters and manager Adrian Heath played for the Premier League club too.

A move to bring in Butland would be a great signing for Orlando but the young star would have to be willing to make the long move away from home.

Still, the added incentive of playing in the same side as Brazilian superstar Kaka could be enough to tempt Butland as he is still a way off of starting in the Premier League with Stoke.

Would Jack Butland be a good signing for Orlando City?

Premier League trio set to battle for Clint Dempsey loan deal

Three Premier League clubs are reportedly interested in bringing Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey back to England for a short-term loan deal.

The 31-year-old joined Fulham for a couple of months in the MLS offseason last year, and could be set for a similar move this year, with Aston Villa, Stoke and Queens Park Rangers all keen, according to the Daily Mirror.

Dempsey has been excellent for the Sounders this season, scoring 15 goals and adding 10 assists to help the side finish as the best side through the regular season.

Seattle lifted the MLS Supporters’ Shield for the first time in their history on Saturday night, and will need Dempsey to help them if they are to clinch the MLS Cup too.

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The USMNT star could then return to England after Christmas for a short spell in the Premier League, and his options would appear to be open.

He has American teammates at both Aston Villa and Stoke City, so may look there, but he could also return to London with QPR, to try and help Harry Redknapp’s side avoid relegation.

The former Spurs forward has had a long season, and alternatively may decide to have a rest ahead of the 2015 MLS season.

Should Dempsey return to the Premier League once again – or does he need to rest?