It's Time For Man City To Make A Statement And Destroy Stoke
3pm on Saturday sees the return of a fixture that strikes fear into the heart of any good City fan – Stoke away. City always seem to struggle at Stoke – often outfought and occasionally outplayed, inevitably to a 1 – 1 conclusion. We’ve had some great away results in recent years – Old Trafford, the Emirates and Stamford Bridge to name but a few – but the Britannia Stadium is rarely one of them.
City fans, and hopefully the manager, will be looking for an impressive return after the international break which banishes to distant memory the struggles of the Hull game. City cannot afford to be outfought by Stoke as they were by Hull and Pellegrini’s starting XI is likely to reflect this. We can hopefully see only bench slots for Kolarov and Dzeko as Clichy and Negredo come in, while Jovetic will be looking for a first appearance in a City shirt. Yaya and Fernandinho will need to find their feet pretty quickly if they are to cope with Stoke’s erm, physical, style and we can hope that they are relishing the challenge rather than quivering in fear.
One man who won’t disappear with a whimper is City’s new star striker Alvaro Negredo. A throw-back to the old-fashioned English centre forward, Negredo should thrive in this sort of game. He’s already shown us that he’ll throw his weight around and put himself about and while he’s clearly not the silkiest player in the world, if he continues this goal scoring rate the fans won’t care a jot. He’s already got terrace hero written all over him and this is another chance to endear himself to the City faithful. If the Beast of Vallecas can forge a partnership with Sergio Aguero then we’ll have a big man – little man front pairing that can take us to the top of the league.
Stoke have never been a pushover and certainly won’t be this weekend. Having moved on from Tony Pulis, Stoke have had a decent start under Mark Hughes and he’ll be desperate to get a result against the club that let him go. It’s clear to see that Hughes still bristles about his departure from City and he won’t struggle with firing up the players in front of a raucous crowd. City fans will hope to see a return of some of the defensive comedy shows that defined much of his time at the Etihad.
This Saturday I think it’s about time for City to pull themselves together and make a statement to the rest of the League. The 4-0 against Newcastle now seems to be an anomaly, recorded against an incredibly weak (and 10 man) Newcastle side. After much initial oohing and ahhing about City, knives are starting to be sharpened in the press and Pellegrini could do with 3 points and a strong performance to silence some of the doubters and kick start the season. The Chilean’s management plans have clearly not yet been fully implemented and his plans have been upset by the defensive injuries. However, fans at City and across the rest of the League will have little sympathy for a club that spent nearly £100 million over the summer.
So after years of disappointing performances at Stoke I’m confident that this will be the exception to the rule and City will have enough to see through a strong away win. Expect big things from Negredo and Aguero and what odds on Jovetic starting with a bang? This is where the season starts proper for Manchester City, and the real team stands up. Or more likely it’ll just end 1-1.
Follow Tom on Twitter at @tewilkins