The Britannia has been a fortress for Stoke City in the past, and a couple of seasons ago it was regarded as one of the toughest places to pick up points on the road. While Stoke have undoubtedly grown in stature and improved since the days of Tony Pulis, their home form isn’t as feared as it once was. Even so, Stoke are a new beast under Mark Hughes and will provide a tough game for any visiting team.
Manchester City are beginning to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s methodology in an impressive way. Football’s modern trailblazer is fast indoctrinating his squad into the system he operates with and it’s beginning to pay off. The system still needs refining, but City will be looking to push on in a big way at the Britannia.
Stoke have started slowly in the Premier League, picking up a lacklustre draw away at Middlesbrough at the weekend. The Potters were completely dominated in the first half by the newly promoted home side, and only managed one shot on target throughout the whole game: their goal.
The talismanic Marco Arnautovic and Bojan both failed to make a significant impact on the game, which is disappointing given how instrumental they are to Stoke on the attack.
While City looked unconvincing in their 2-1 victory over Sunderland last weekend, their 5-0 dismantling of Steaua Bucharest away midweek proved that things are starting to take shape. Against Sunderland, City were languid in possession and slightly toothless in attack; Sergio Aguero was often left isolated and outnumbered against opposition defenders.
The same couldn’t be said of City on their travels in Bucharest. The Citizens looked incredibly dangerous moving forward, with Raheem Sterling looking especially driven and determined to create something. In the end though, Sergio Aguero stole the limelight with a hattrick and two missed penalties in a devastating, albeit slightly bizarre, performance.
Predicted line ups:
Stoke are struggling for quality in depth at the moment, so it’s unlikely that Mark Hughes will make too many changes going into the game. Jack Butland is unlikely to return to the first team line up following a minor ankle injury, but he could feature on the bench.
New signing Joe Allen could make his first start for the Potters alongside the impressive Imbula, while Joselu could be given the chance to make more of an impact that Diouf did last week. Diouf lacked the guile to intrigate anything on the pitch, so Joselu could be brought in to try something different.
Delph could be utilised to give David Silva a break after playing two games in the last week, while Jesus Navas could be brought in to try and exploit the lack of pace in Stoke’s full backs. Sergio Aguero will likely start, given his scintillating midweek form, but Kelechi Iheanacho could come in to give the Aregentine a rest. Joe Hart is looked increasingly likely to leave the Etihad this summer, so until Guardiola can get a new first choice, Caballero will likely start. Kolarov put in one of the best centre back performances his manager had ever seen against Sunderland so he will likely make the starting 11.
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Suspensions and injuries
Stoke City are having a minor injury crisis at the moment. As stated above, first choice keeper Jack Butland is unlikely to return to the first XI due to a minor ankle injury, but should be back within two weeks. Glen Johnson should return from a thigh strain in time to make the bench, but is also unlikely to start as Mark Hughes won’t want to risk his fitness immediately.
Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are both due out until at least 2017 with the former suffering with a broken leg and the latter plagued with an unfortunate anterior cruciate ligament injury.
City are no stranger to injury problems either, especially where captain Vincent Kompany is concerned. The Belgian is still out after a thigh strain in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in the tail end of last season, but is estimated to return in early September. New signing Ilkay Gundogan is expected to be fit not long afterwards and is still recovering from a knee injury suffered prior to signing, while there is no news on fellow recuit Leroy Sane’s hamstring problem.
Nicolas Otamendi is back to full fitness and ready to play following his midweek performance in Romania.
Stoke will be looking to claim victory in their first home game of the season, but after their underwhelming display at the weekend, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that they’ll get anything from the game.
City looked potent in attack and dominant in possession in their last outing, and they could quite easily go on to completely outclass the Potters.
That being said, the Manchester side did look slightly unsure in defence at times, even against Steaua, and if Stoke can pressure their back line with a few precision long balls, they could find a few chances.
Stoke 1-3 Manchester City
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