Manchester City roll up to the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday as they look to carry their momentum forward from the 5-0 battering of Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League qualifiers. Pep Guardiola has introduced widespread changes in the tactics and mentality of the players as they are slowly coming up to speed with the new implementations. City started off with a nervy 2-1 win over Sunderland at home, where they bossed possession but did little with it. Pep would have been heartened by the stark difference in a matter of days when a similar team seemed to get their mojo back and were on a rampage against the Romanian side.
Stoke will pose a different challenge altogether, though. The Potters have been a difficult proposition for City, especially at the Bet365 Stadium where their only previous win came in February 2015 when they won 4-1. They have a terrible record in the other seven games drawing 5 and losing two amassing just 4 goals over the period. Former City boss Mark Hughes has lost six of his ten Premier League games against his former employers having won two and drawn two. But encouragingly for Stoke both those wins have come in the last two seasons pointing to an even contest between the two, come Saturday.
Willy Caballero is expected to retain his place in the squad with Joe Hart’s future looking sealed. Sagna will likely take up the right-back slot having been replaced by Zabaleta in the mid-week match. Stones and Otamendi should form the central defensive pair with Kolarov an option. The Serbian has impressed hugely at both left-back and centre-back and looks an important part of Pep’s planning. Clichy will take up the left-back if Pep decides to give Kolarov a breather after two back to back games.
Fernandinho has been an integral part of the team and despite being heavily involved would like to retain his place. Silva was majestic in his new role on Wednesday and City will need his trickery to unlock a resilient Stoke. De Bruyne will most likely start in the unorthodox role in between a No.10 and No.8 role but Pep will be wary of stretching the Belgian’s fitness levels after a half-baked pre-season.
Nolito and Sterling impressed on the flanks and will look to carry their momentum forward while goal-machine Sergio Aguero is expected to lead the line once again.