Manchester City roll upto Stoke today as Pep Guardiola faces his test of typical English football as the Potters lie in wait. Granted, Stoke have had their own transformation over the last couple of seasons, but an away fixture at the Bet365 Stadium will be one of the many acid tests Pep will face while implementing his passing and possession based philosophy in the Premier League.
Mark Hughes will be quietly confident after having had the upper hand over the past couple of seasons at the Bet365 Stadium. The Sky Blues have a non-flattering record there having won just 1 match at Stoke and have drawn 5 and lost 2 amassing just 4 goals over the matches.
Jack Butland and Glen Johnson have been ruled out of the match by Mark Hughes after failing to recover from their injuries. Shaqiri is a slight doubt for the match while Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are long term absentees.
Bacary Sagna is expected to recover from a minor injury after having come off the bench in the mid-week match against Steaua Bucharest. Nasri, Mangala and Toure are unlikely to feature as well as Joe Hart, with the four having fallen out of favour under the new regime. Gundogan, Sane, Kompany are nearing fitness and are targeting a return after the international break.
STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1)
Given- Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters- Allen, Imbula- Arnautovic, Bojan, Shaqiri- Diouf
MANCHESTER CITY (4-1-4-1)
Caballero- Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy- Fernandinho- Nolito, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling- Aguero
PLAYERS TO WATCH
XHERDAN SHAQIRI- The Swiss international’s solitary moment of genius salvaged a draw against Middlesbrough and his ability to conjure such flashes of brilliance makes him a dangerous prospect. Always capable of the sensational, the City defence has to be wary of the surprisingly strong and quick winger. While Arnautovic will be hog much of the attention, Shaqiri will have more freedom to express himself.
SERGIO AGUERO- The usual suspect once again. The little Argentine has started off on an imperious note. Early days, but it seems to be a battle of the two Manchester giants- Ibrahimovic and Aguero for the coveted Golden Boot. Sergio Aguero has scored 6 goals in 6 games against Stoke and after a hattrick in midweek, few people will bet against him scoring again. The Stoke rearguard will have to be on their toes to nullify Kun’s influence on the game as he possesses the ability to turn the match around in a matter of seconds.
It will be an interesting match-up between the two sides as the two people previously associated with Barcelona and Bayern Munich come up against each other. Pep will be eager to see how his tactics work against the settled clubs in the Premier League after a resounding success in Romania. Stoke have had the upper hand at home over the Etihad outfit and Manchester City would dearly want to put their record straight this time around. Pep will ensure the shoulders don’t droop in a repeat of last season’s corresponding fixture and Stoke will have to come up with their A-game if they are to carry on their domination.