Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
September 14, 2013; 15:00 BST
International breaks are perhaps the most frustrating periods for football fans, especially when you waiting eagerly to see your club’s new signings in action. Stoke City host Manchester City on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium, in what promise to be an intense affair.
Britannia stadium hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Manchester City. The Citizens are yet to win a premier league match in this stadium, although they did win on their last visit to Stoke in the league cup fixture back in January. In fact all the last four matches between this two sides in the Britannia stadium have ended in 1-1. So Manchester City will be looking to improve their record this weekend, but they face a rejuvenated Stoke side, who have a good start to the season under new manager Mark Hughes.
After a hard fought loss in their opening day fixture against Liverpool, Stoke have recovered well and won their last two matches. In their last game Jermaine Pennant’s wonderful free-kick in the second half proved to be the winner, earning them crucial three points away from home. Stoke completed the exciting signing of Austrian attacker Marco Arnautovic on the deadline day and the fans will be queuing up to get the first glimpse of this temperamental forward.
Manchester City on the other hand have been far from convincing since their opening day victory over Newcastle United. They lost to Cardiff City away from home, despite taking the lead initially. They did manage to win against Hull, but once a again they were made to work very hard for the points and some would even consider Hull unlucky to have lost by that score line. Without Kompany at the back, Manchester City have looked vulnerable and unorganized. Manuel Pellegrini needs to sort out a lot of things ahead of this tough away trip to Stoke.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Mark Hughes does have some fitness concerns ahead of this fixture. Kenwyne Jones is out with a foot injury and is unlikely to feature in this game. There are also concerns about the fitness of Charlie Adams and Glenn Whelan. Adams’ missed Scotland’s midweek fixture against Macedonia with a back injury and is expected to undergo a late fitness ahead of this game, while Whelan, who came off the bench against West Ham in the second half to replace Adams, is sure to miss this fixture.
Jones’ absence means Peter Crouch is likely to start upfront while new signing Arnautovic is expected to make his debut off the bench. If Charlie Adams fails to make it to the starting line-up, Stephen Ireland or Oussama Assaidi can also make their debut in this game. Other than these two forced changes, Hughes is expected to stick to the starting eleven that was fielded against West Ham.
The former Manchester City manager started the season using the 4-1-4-1 formation, but changed to a more defensive 4-5-1 formation in the match against West Ham. Stoke City have looked very organized in defence so far as both Shawcross and Huth have started the season on fine form. Marc Wilson has also provided good defensive cover to the back four, from the midfield. Steven N’Zonzi has provided the drive in the midfield and will once again be the key against Manchester City.
Interestingly most of Stoke City’s attack has come down the right hand side of the pitch and this could be a strong point against Man City as they have looked defensively vulnerable down that wing. In contrast, Matthew Etherington will have to put in a defensive shift on the left as most of City’s attack will come down that side with Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta stretching the defence. Etherington will have to track the runs of Zabaleta as left-back Pieters will be kept occupied by Navas. Wilson will also have to keep a close eye on Aguero, who will look to run in behind the defence from a deeper position; he will need to track those runs.
Mark Hughes will know that the City defence have looked vulnerable this season and Stoke City have an excellent opportunity to grab something out of this game.
Probable Starting XI [4-5-1] : Begovic (GK); Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Walters, Ireland, Wilson, N’Zonzi, Etherington; Crouch
Manuel Pellegrini has a lot of injury concerns at the moment, especially at the back. Vincent Kompany’s injury has been a huge setback for them and he is unlikely to make his return before the first week of October. Martin Demichellis, who was signed as a cover for the injured Belgium international, has picked up a knee injury even before making his debut for the club and is now expected to out till the last week of October. But the good news is that Micah Richards is set to return from his long spell at the side lines and will provide a timely boost for Pellegrini at the back, but he is unlikely to feature in the starting line-up. City also received a setback during the international break as David Silva pulled out of the Spanish squad with a thigh injury, which he picked up in training. He is unlikely to feature against Stoke City.
Pellegrini is expected to make three change to the starting eleven that was fielded against Hull City as Samir Nasri is expected to replace the injured David Silva, while Clichy will replace Kolarov. There is also a possibility of Alvaro Negredo starting in this game ahead of Edin Dzeko. The Spaniard was named Manchester City’s player of the month, although he is yet to start in a Premier League match. Negredo has already scored two goals as substitute and Pellegrini might finally decide to hand him over his first start against Stoke.
Pellegrini has used the conventional 4-2-3-1 formation with Yaya Toure and new signing Fernandinho operating in the pivot. Although City have won two out of their three matches so far, it is evident that their best is yet to come as new players are finding their feet in the league. But Pellegrini will be concerned about City’s vulnerability at the back in the absence of Kompany. Even though Hull City didn’t manage to score against them, the back four was exposed far too often for the manager’s liking; add to that Joe Hart hasn’t been at his best as well. Moreover, they look shaky while defending set pieces and a team like Stoke City can exploit that.
City needs to put in a good performance against Stoke to prove their title credentials. Despite dominating possession their passing has lacked the zip specially in the final third. They need to up the speed of their game and be more direct in the opponents half, which the inclusion of Nasri and Negredo might provide – against a sturdy Stoke defence.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Hart (GK); Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho; Navas, Aguero, Nasri, Negredo
- Since the start of 2012-13, no side have kept more clean sheets in the Barclays Premier League than Manchester City (20).
- When Hughes was Blackburn manager, he won four and lost none of eight meetings with City.
- Sergio Agüero has had 29 touches inside the opposition’s area so far this season; more than any other Premier League player.
- Stoke’s passing accuracy so far this season is 78.7%. Last season it was 70.2%, the worst in the Premier League.
- Manchester City have already scored three headed goals in the Premier League this season. Last season, they only managed six headers in total.
Player To Watch Out For
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
The Bosnian international has been outstanding form this season, as he has been since joining Stoke in 2010. In three matches so far he has once again proved why he is considered to be among the best in the business at the moment. While Mignolet took away all the credits in the opening game against Liverpool, but in truth Begovic was perhaps unlucky to concede in that game after pulling off some of the most fantastic saves. In the last game he kept his first clean sheet of the season, although in truth West Ham didn’t provide him with too many challenges. But against City he will be once again called into action and expect him to have a telling contribution in this game.
Stoke City 1-1 Manchester City
Stoke are in good form at the moment, while historically Manchester City have struggled at the Britannia Stadium. With City’s defence looking vulnerable, expect Stoke to score against them, although City also have enough fire power upfront to. This match is likely to end in a draw.