Stoke Focus – Stoke eye Manchester City FA Cup payback

The last time Stoke City met Manchester City in the world’s oldest cup competition, the Citizens ended their 35 year wait for a trophy, as Yaya Toure scored the only goal of the game at Wembley to break the hearts of Potters’ fans and players alike.

Nearly two years on and the two teams are set to do battle in the FA Cup once again, this time at the Britannia Stadium. Roberto Mancini’s men have since become Premier League champions while Stoke, who enjoyed a sojourn into Europe following that final defeat in 2011, have cemented themselves as a force in England’s top division and are currently on course for their best ever finish.

However, the Potters’ league form has stagnated of late after taking only one point from their last four matches and Tony Pulis could be set to rotate some members of his squad which has looked particularly weary of late.

However, for the Stoke fans still smarting from that Wembley defeat over a season ago, the visit of City offers the perfect opportunity for long-awaited payback. It also, much like the third round replay victory over Crystal Palace last week, acts as a chance to gather momentum in response to their somewhat faltering league form.

Indeed, those travelling to the Britannia can expect a similar starting XI to the one that saw off Palace by a scoreline of 4-1 after extra-time last week. Thomas Sorensen should come in for Asmir Begovic in goal, Michael Kightly will replace Matthew Etherington out wide and Peter Crouch should continue up front while speculation continues over the future of the in-form Kenwyne Jones.

Crouch has scored in Stoke’s last two home games against City and could certainly do with continuing that record, which would not only end a scoreless run that goes back to late September, but would also ease any decision to let Jones depart.

Elsewhere, after getting off the mark for the Potters in their disappointing 3-1 defeat at Swansea in their last outing, Michael Owen will be disappointed if he is not handed what would only be his second start for the club.

However, Pulis will surely be aware of making too many changes. Though counterpart Mancini is sure to rotate his starting XI, the quality in Manchester City’s squad is hardly likely to result in too weakened a team.

Elsewhere this week at the Britannia, the Potters have eventually decided against offering United States international winger Brek Shea a permanent deal after a troublesome foot injury put paid to a week-long trial that had been scheduled at the club.

With just over a week left until the end of the transfer window, time is beginning to run out for Tony Pulis fulfil his stated desire to add to his squad. For now the Welshman will, as ever, be solely focused on the next match and in front of what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere, he will be confident of upsetting one of the big boys yet again.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Stoke v Wigan

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