Stoke City v Manchester City preview
After the impressive 4-1 weekend demolition of Fulham, Man City roll into the Britannia Stadium to take on a Stoke team who have been on an impressive run of late. Stoke have won their last 3 matches (against West Brom, Liverpool and Birmingham) having previously lost 4 on the bounce.
City boss Mancini was under slight pressure before the Fulham game, with two successive 0-0 draws (against Man United and Birmingham) leading many to question his overly-cautious tactical approach. Everything in the garden would appear to be rosy again, but such is the life of a Premier League manager, that defeat at Stoke could see him come under pressure again very quickly.
Stoke will provide a real test of City’s mettle, with their physical approach and the home fans behind them this could be one of City’s biggest tests to date. Certain players such as David Silva, Yaya Toure and Aleksandr Kolarov will likely never have experienced a team like Stoke in their careers and it will be interesting to see how they react.
City have more or less a full squad to choose from, although Zabaleta will miss the tie after picking up a 5th booking of the season at Fulham. Expect Jerome Boateng or Micah Richards to come in, with Mancini showing a preference for Boateng usually.
Stoke will be without winger Jermaine Pennant, who picked up a hamstring injury against West Brom, but will be hoping for more goals from in-form striker Jon Walters, who is forming a good understanding with Kenwyne Jones.
The bookies have priced City as favourites for this at best odds of 5/4 despite being the away team. Stoke are a decent priced 5/2 and the draw is around 23/10, lower than usual for a draw, suggesting the bookies think Mancini might revert back to his negative ways and play for a draw in a tricky away tie.