Having returned to the top of the Premier League, Manchester City will be keen to ensure that they remain there by winning a potentially difficult game away to former manager Mark Hughes’ Stoke City.
The Potters took a run of just one defeat in 10 matches into their last outing away to Sunderland and looked to be holding their own until captain Ryan Shawcross was harshly dismissed shortly after half-time. That swung the balance of power very much towards their opponents and it was eventually taken full advantage of as two late goals robbed Stoke of the opportunity to move into the top half of the league for the first time this season.
It could have been so different had Jonathan Walters tucked away a great first half chance after running on to a superb cross from the in-form Erik Pieters, but as the match wore on it was decision making which let Stoke down as too often they were caught trying to play their way out of trouble, a ploy which only served to increase the pressure on Jack Butland’s goal. Here, as they come up against an array of star quality, they cannot really afford to be so charitable.
There was a little scrutiny placed on Man City as they hosted Southampton last weekend in a game which followed two disappointing defeats, but fortunately enough they made a very strong start and built themselves a platform from which they would go on and win. Raheem Sterling was sharp enough to punish an error and set up the excellent Kevin de Bruyne for the first, before Fabian Delph marked his first league start for the club with a goal, aided by a deflection.
However, nerves began to set in after the break as Southampton posed much more of a threat going forward and, after pulling one back, they looked increasingly likely to draw level until they were caught on the break and de Bruyne once again showed great vision to pick out Aleksandar Kolarov, who finished expertly. The leaders will not find Stoke easy to penetrate, but if they can get the first goal it would likely make all the difference as the West Midlands side are not exactly firing in front of goal at present.
Shawcross is available for Stoke after serving his one-match ban in the Capital One Cup in midweek. Striker Peter Crouch was injured in that game so misses out here.
Joe Hart is likely to return in goal for Man City, who could give a start to fit-again David Silva. Suspension has rendered Eliaquim Mangala absent, while Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure are both injured.
Last Meeting: Man City came up with a tremendous second half performance to come away with a comprehensive 4-1 win at Stoke in February. Sergio Aguero put them in front only for Peter Crouch to square it for the home side before the interval, but James Milner nodded in to make it 2-1. Aguero added his second from the penalty spot, before Samir Nasri rounded off the scoring by classily finishing off a fine move.
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