Preview: City v Stoke

This time last week most of us were probably looking at the upcoming fixtures and licking our lips. Not that we've performed particularly well against, with all due respect, 'lesser' sides in the league, but seven points plus was thought achievable by most from the year-ending games, and corners were looking to be turned.

Though we won the first of those three the events of last Saturday were doubly worrying. An initially promising but in the end 'same old' performance, then the callous sacking of Mark Hughes, culminated in a day we'd probably all sooner rather forget. Given those goings-on we head in to a home game against Stoke with a new man at the helm and without a real clue what we'll be met with.

The injuries are beginning to mount up. Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge will both be out until well in to the New Year with knee injuries. Replacement at Spurs Nedum Onuoha has torn a calf and will miss four weeks. Micah Richards also has a knee strain and Michael Johnson won't play again this season. Kolo Toure will play his last game before departing for the African Nations Cup, but Nigel de Jong returns from a ban. SWP and Emmanuel Adebayor have ankle niggles but should take part.

For Stoke, Robert Huth returns from a ban and star defender Ryan Shawcross is expected to come back in to the side after suffering from an ankle problem. Amdy Faye is out long-term with a back injury, but otherwise the Potters will be at full-strength.

With the new managerial team in place it's difficult to know who will be picked and who left out. In defence our options are pretty limited, so barring something out of the ordinary happening the back five pretty much picks itself. An uneducated guess would be that Mancini might opt for two holding midfielders, most likely to be Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong. Given his support of Robinho in the press, and Craig Bellamy's problems with training, i'd also anticipate the Brazilian to get the nod.

Stoke, as you might expect, will be pretty tough to break down. A lack of goals seems to be the main reason they've not improved on an already respectable 11th place. A no-nonsense back four, generalled by the excellent Shawcross, and defended admirably by Abdoulaye Faye in midfield, has conceded no more goals than the likes of Arsenal or Spurs. Former Villa 'keeper Thomas Sorensen is proving himself a reliable set-piece stopper, too.

Former City academy player Glen Whelan will figure in a probable five-man midfield, with Ricardo Fuller more likely than Mama Sidibe, or the recently headbutted former England man James Beattie. A battle it will certainly be, and at so far this season, even at home, we've seen sides profit from being very direct against us. Pulis' men will be quietly confident about making their impression on us after our recent performances.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, keeping the goals out will still be the main problem. A cobbled together defence will need to impose themselves on the game, but providing they can do that we should have enough in attack to punish the visitors. We're due a convincing home victory, and rather than threatening one and panicking like last time round, if we've got anything about ourselves at all then tomorrow ought to represent a chance for the new manager to make a good first impression.

Possible teams:
City: Given, Zabaleta, Sylvinho, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Santa Cruz, Robinho

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Collins, Shawcross, Huth, Faye, Delap, Whitehead, Whelan, Fuller, Etherington

Prediction: City 2 Stoke 0


  1. Abdoulaye Faye is a centre half for us along with Shawcross with Wilkinson & Huth likely to be the 2 full backs, although I was quite impressed with Higginbotham at Aston Villa considering he hasn't played since we signed Danny Collins from Sunderland. It'll be a 4 man midfield with Lawrence & Etherington down the flanks & Diao & Whitehead in the middle. Tuncay & Sidibe will get the nod up front.

    My own personal prediction - Man City 1-1 Stoke.

    Can't really see us winning in all honesty given our away record, having said that it was a massive improvement against Aston Villa but I think Man City have more to offer as a threat than Villa did. Villa just have a better organised defence than Man City

  2. Nice prediction! Will we go on and finish (at least) fourth now and will Robinho be sold?