Over the years Stoke have always proven to be one of those bottom-half teams that the big boys hate to play. With Manchester City looking to build on their return of maximum points, there’s every chance that they feel exactly the same as they host the Potters at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Having won the title in his first campaign in charge, there were always going to be people questioning whether Manuel Pellegrini could repeat the feat and experience a successful second term in charge. At the moment, the omens certainly appear promising, with City taking maximum points from two fixtures which can hardly be regarded as being straightforward. A trip to St James’ Park to take on Newcastle on the opening day was always going to be a potential banana skin, yet the Citizens passed with flying colours following a comfortable 2-0 win. Having then waltzed past Liverpool in 3-1 fashion last weekend, it already looks as though City are even better than they were than last year and it is going to take some sterling competition from their title rivals if their crown is going to be taken away.
Stoke on the other hand will be somewhat disappointed with their start to the season. Opening fixtures against Aston Villa and Hull was hardly the most challenging start, yet they have still only managed a return of one point. Considering the fact that they were up against ten men, and required a hugely fortuitous officiating decision in their last game against Hull, there’s no doubt that it has been a shaky start for Mark Hughes’ Potters. On a more positive note, they did thrash Portsmouth 3-0 in the League Cup on Wednesday, although whether or not this has increased optimism ahead of a trip to the league champions remains to be seen.
If we look towards team news, Manchester City’s attacking problems don’t look to be as severe as first anticipated with both Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero poised to play despite initial fears. However, there still won’t be a place for new defensive signing Eliaquim Mangala, who is still not up to match fitness. Stoke do approach the game with a couple of concerns, with Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron both set to miss out as they struggle on the sidelines. There is better news in relation to Bojan Krkic though, with the former Barcelona forward back in the reckoning after returning to training this week.
As for a prediction, we don’t foresee any surprises this weekend. Manchester City already look much better than they were last term, while Stoke actually look worse. Bearing this in mind, our tip for Saturday’s encounter is going to be a comfortable 3-0 victory for the Etihad Stadium team.