Preview: Stoke City v Manchester City
Here we go again, only this time on a smaller pitch tailored to Rory Delap’s long throws and with a vociferous home crowd against us. Can City do any better than the much cricised performance on Saturday?
Yes they can. Having conceded to a Delap throw on Saturday, minds should be even more focused now. It ought to be remembered this was the first time Mancini’s zonal defending has been found wanting. Previously it has been very effective, particularly in the defending of corners which had become chaotic under Hughes.
“I think you will see a different game tomorrow night. On Saturday we played well in the first half, but we couldn’t find a second goal after taking the lead.
“The second half we were so-so, but we didn’t play too badly. We just made the mistake of conceding a throw-in from which they scored.”
The probable absence of Kompany is the biggest concern for a game at the Britannia. While it would be a major shock to see Mancini take Toure out of central defence, there is definitely a strong case for playing the more imposing Onuoha alongside Lescott. Boyata’s aerial strength is another option, but playing the teenager would leave us lacking in leadership.
Richards could also be set to return at right-back, which would be no bad thing particularly given the absence of Etherington on the Stoke flanks. Micah would give us another good header of the ball for defending set-pieces.
In midfield, Johnson is sure to return and Vieira is also tipped to start. With Ireland and Wright-Phillips both likely to be over their weekend knocks, the side could be quite similar to that which started on Saturday. Vieira for Barry would give the England midfielder a rest before the huge game against Liverpool at the weekend.
Wright-Phillips and Johnson could give us great attacking strength on the flanks, while Adebayor is likely to continue as a lone striker. As we saw on Saturday, it’s down to Mancini whether the Togolese becomes isolated.
We have the players to get forward and support him, but whether they are instructed to is a different matter. Playing Ireland is key to this, as a central midfield of Vieira, de Jong and Barry inevitably invites the opposition on to us.
If Adebayor fails to deliver against the big centre-halves, then expect to see another outing from Roque Santa Cruz. He did ok on Saturday, but whether it’s enough to make up for the absence of Tevez is another matter.
Bellamy is another who is considered a big loss, yet recently to much of his energy has been spent on supporting our left-backs. When it comes to attacking, Johnson could offer more of a threat on current form.
“We’ll go to Stoke tomorrow looking to cause them problems and because it’s one of our games in hand, it’s vital we get a good result.
“If we want to finish in the top four and win the FA Cup, we have to overcome whatever Stoke, and any other team for that matter, can pitch at us.”
Given is right in that we need to get a positive result. Looking at the fixtures for the rest of the season shows Liverpool have a much easier run-in that could easily negate our games in hand. That’s why City need to go for the win.
Blue Days line-up: Given, Richards, Bridge, Onuoha, Lescott, de Jong, Vieira, A Johnson, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor.
Prediction: 2-0 to City.