A 12 day rest for Stoke City, whereas battles against Chelsea and Barcelona for Manchester City. Could an upset be on the cards in the third game at the Eithad in a week?
Now three weeks into February and the period where the chase for trophies can slip away from you in a flash – as Arsenal fans know too well – is fully upon us. A win against Chelsea saw them progress in the FA Cup, but a difficult challenge against Barcelona means their European adventures are nearly over. In the league, City are 3 points adrift of 1st place with a game in hand and a win against Stoke will be good preparation for the League Cup final next weekend.
Stoke are one of the many teams that are consumed in the bottom half relegation battle of who will be the worst team in the league. Currently, Stoke are sitting in 14th place, 3 points above the drop zone despite being on 3 match unbeaten in February, which saw draws against Sunderland and Southampton and a victory at home to Manchester United. A run of 1 win in 9 games, however, will keep Stoke fans peering over their shoulders in case teams below begin to pick up 3 points more regularly.
The player that often holds the key to the tight and organised defences that regularly set up against Manchester City, Silva has returned to his best form being City’s best playmaker creating 63 chances and assisting 7 goals.
With Stoke likely to set up with an organised and deep defensive line, Silva will have to be at his fluid best to create space for himself and his team mates with clever movement. If successful, Manchester City will be able to beat and dispatch of another side that has turned up at the Eithad.
The former Manchester United defender has been a solid and important player for Stoke over the last few years and his performance will be pivotal if the Potters are to get any points on Saturday afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, Shawcross has the most clearances (203 – 115 of which have been headed) and if Stoke play with a narrow defensive line, which forces their opponents to attack the wings, Shawcross will definitely add to his total for this season. With 60% of his ground duels won (46), Shawcross will put up a good physical challenge to Negredo in hope of keeping him quiet.
Free scoring Manchester City have gone two games without scoring against Chelsea and Norwich City.
City’s home record has been talked about often this season – on average they’ve scored 3.5 goal per game and conceded 0.8 goals.
Since being promoted to the Premier League, Stoke have yet to score away at the Eithad in 5 attempts.
Assaidi is the only new injury concern for Stoke and will miss a “number of weeks” according to Mark Hughes. Etherington, Wilkinson and Huth are still unavailable.
Nastasic and Aguero are likely to be out for another week, while Kompany could be a doubt for the title chasers with a hamstring injury.
With Stoke having 12 days rest compared to their opponents, there shouldn’t be any surprise if the half-time score isn’t in Manchester City’s favour. The quality in the squad though, with players returning from injury such as Nasri and Fernandinho who have been missed, will be too strong for Stoke to hold out for 90 minutes.
Manchester City 2 Stoke City 0