Coming off of a decisive 3-1 victory over last year’s Premier League runners up Liverpool, Manchester City will look to continue their perfect start to the early season with a lineup that will feature only a couple of changes. The most likely changes will be at fullback with Sagna in line to make his first appearance in sky blue and Alexander Kolorov rotating in for Gael Clichy. It is also possible that Fernando might be replaced by Fernandinho as the Brazilian is nearing full fitness, after a mentally and physically taxing World Cup in Brazil.
The front four largely picks itself with Silva, Nasri, and Toure all in fine early season form. Stevan Jovetic has been a revelation over the course of pre-season and early days in the league. The striker spot will likely be occupied by either Sergio Aguero, who picked up a knock in training today, or Edin Dzeko, who took a nasty stud to the thigh Monday night. If you’re Manuel Pellegrini you really can’t go wrong picking either Aguero – scored two goals in less than 30 minutes of playing time this season – or his teammate Dzeko who appears to be in inspired form. His goals will come, as they always do, but his creativity and passing so far has been an added dimension.
City will look to score early and draw Stoke out of what will likely be a nine or even ten men behind the ball approach. An early goal at home usually means that City are on their way to three or four or more. When they have trouble scoring early they often play much tighter and with far more nervousness than when things are flowing freely and the goals are going in early and with regularity. The home match against Crystal Palace last season will be a blueprint for their opponents to analyse and try to replicate, despite City claiming a slender 1-0 victory.
On the other side of the pitch former City manager Mark Hughes is still trying to find what his best lineup is. A groin injury to the in demand American international Geoff Cameron and the arrival of Chelsea loanee Victor Moses means that Hughes will have some more tinkering to do. He’ll likely start Moses and Krkic on the wings. with England’s favorite gangly robot Peter Crouch as the lone striker up front. Charlie Adam may not regain a place with the more dogged Glenn Whelan in a midfield that will contain essentially three holding midfielders that will try to stifle a lethal City attack.
Stoke’s best hope for a result will come from packing the middle and forcing the ball out wide. If you’re a Stoke fan you’d probably prefer it go out wide to Samir Nasri rather than David Silva. With a solid amount of Stoke grit and determination, coupled with perfect defensive organization, the Potters may be able to hold City scoreless if the Citizens are having an off day. At the other end of the field perhaps a well-timed cross could find the forehead of Peter Crouch and then the back of Joe Hart’s net.
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