After the distraction of international football comes the resumption of the Premier League and a challenging fixture for the Blues. A trip to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke is, as has become the cliché, a real test of a side’s credentials and Roberto Mancini has spoken of his delight at this fixture coming now, rather than later in the season when it might have a more meaningful impact on the title race.
It is a ground where City have not had too much success recently, with Stoke proving a perennially tough test for City but the Blues are in far better form, having won eight of our past nine Premier League matches, whilst the Potters have recorded six draws from their previous seven games stretching to last season.
Stoke’s style of football is often criticised, but although it is an eyesore and must be frustrating to have to watch every week, it is successful and needs to be combated. The contrast in styles is highlighted by the fact Yaya Toure has averaged 99 passes per game so far this season (a league high) but no single Stoke player has yet to make 99 passes in total. It will be a challenge to overcome but we have the confidence, self-belief and quality of player to reign victorious.
Paddy Power are offering new customers a FREE £25 bet. They have plenty of specials for City’s fixture against Stoke, with Yaya Touré to score the last goal at 9-1 especially tempting. Click here to open an account and claim your FREE £25 bet!
In terms of team selection, the four deadline day signings are all available, though whether Mancini bloods them immediately remains to be seen. I’d expect the Blues to line up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott as the centre-backs, Aleks Kolarov on the left and either Maicon or James Milner on the right. Javi Garcia is not the sort of player to shirk a physical battle so he may well be handed his debut alongside Yaya, with Jack Rodwell also in contention.
Further forward, Sergio Aguero is recovering well from his knee injury and may be on the bench with the Real Madrid game in mind, but Mario Balotelli is available after eye surgery. Edin Dzeko scored four goals in two Bosnia matches over the break and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t named in the starting line-up.
Here is the side Mancini could select:
Stoke strengthened well in the summer window, adding the likes of Maurica Edu and Steven N’Zonzi in the last week of August, plus Charlie Adam from Liverpool, a player who will fit the thuggish style of player well. He has excellent ability on the ball but is fond of a rash tackle or two, an attribute which should ingratiate him to Stoke’s fans. Michael Owen joined as a free agent after the deadline and has a penchant for scoring against City but he’s lacking in match fitness, so expect any impact to be made from the bench.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg – An official who rather enjoys being the centre of attention. Regarded highly but expect a controversial decision.
Prediction: Stoke 1 – 2 MAN CITY – We always face a tough game at the Britannia Stadium but we have far superior quality of individual and if we can match Stoke’s fighting spirit, we should be fine. Goals to be scored by Jon Walters, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tévez.