Tony Pulis and his team currently sit 8th in the table and qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League. They are a tough test for any team to face, physically robust and know how to play to their strengths. Although Stoke do have players that can play a bit, they are well known for a certain, very unattractive style of play.
It wasn't particularly surprising when they announced the signing of Peter Crouch from Spurs in the summer. He's exactly the kind of player Stoke want up front as they punt or throw the ball into the 18 yard box. Peter Crouch is Stoke's joint top scorer with Jonathan Walters, both currently on 4 league goals.
Rory Delap is well known for his ability to launch the ball into the box from throw ins, and giving one away within 30 yards from the goal line is as good as giving away a corner. City will have to be fully focused if Stoke get any throw ins or free kicks near the area. If Kompany and Richards play like they did against Arsenal though even the likes of Crouch will have a tough time beating them in the air.
I think it's fair to say that you know exactly what you're going to get when you play against Stoke and to be fair to them, what they do works for them. Whether you like the way they play or not is another thing, but each team has to play to their strengths at the end of the day, and their strengths are their physical presence and set pieces.
I suspect we will see Joleon Lescott returning to the side after missing out on Arsenal. Kolo was likely chosen ahead of Joleon for his added mobility which thankfully shone through after some very lacklustre performances. However, Lescott has much better ability in the air and will be the better option against the aerial bombardment Stoke are likely to try and impose.
We may also see a recall to action from Edin Dzeko in place of Super Mario. Although Mario provides much more flair and an ability to create something out of nothing, Edin has more of a physical presence and is less likely to lose his temper with the physical nature of Stoke's defence. In short, Mario is an easy target and Edin he is a safer option to start with. He's also is due a bag full of goals having not hit the back of the net for over 6 weeks.
The last time Stoke played City was straight after their defeat in the FA Cup final. The result was 3-0 in a rather one sided game. In fact the FA Cup final was a rather one sided game too, although that's not to say the same thing will happen this time round. Both teams have improved since May and will be looking to pick up as many points over the Christmas period as possible.
City (Manchester of course) are unbeaten at home in the last 12 months, and Stoke have lost 4 of their 8 games away from home this season, conceding 16 in the process. This all points to what should be a comfortable victory for Mancini's men after his 2nd anniversary of becoming manager at Manchester City. However, football often likes to throw in a result no one expects. Hopefully that wont be tomorrow.
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