VMC Preview: Stoke v CITY
Not many teams will come away from the Britannia with all three points this season; in fact only Spurs and United have emerged victorious thus far, and both did so by taking the game to Stoke. So if we attack the Potters like we did Fulham, then I think we can win as they tend to crumble under intense pressure. Thankfully, morale will be high after last week's 1-4 win at Craven Cottage. But more importantly, the motivation should be there for Mancini who will be looking to avenge our knockout in the cup at the hands of Stoke last campaign.
Stoke Team News:
Jermaine Pennant faces a late fitness test after pulling his hamstring last week against West Brom in Stoke's three nil victory at the Hawthorns. If Pennant fails to pull through I expect Jon Walters, scorer of a late brace last week to take up the right wing berth. First-choice right back Andy Wilkinson is also rated as doubtful with a knee problem; meaning Huth may move out right with Higginbotham or Faye coming into central defence.
Probable Stoke Team:
18) Wilkinson - 4) Huth - 17) Shawcross - 5) Collins
19) Walters - 18) Whitehead - 24) Delap - 26) Etherington
9) Jones - 10) Fuller
City Team News:
Mario Balotelli is available after serving his three match suspension and despite the Mail claiming that Mancini is reluctant to alter his winning side, I predict the Italian will replace Jô on the left of our front three. The in-form Pablo Zabaleta has to serve a one match ban after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the win against Fulham, meaning that Jerome Boateng is likely to overcome an ankle problem to replace the Argentine at right back.
Gareth Barry has also had an ankle problem this past week but like Boateng, he is expected to make a recovery in time for today's game. And finally there is some great news concerning Michael Johnson - he is back in full training and is expected to make his return for the EDS in the next week or so.
And some breaking news from Neil Ashton on Twitter is that Yaya Toure has a headache, apparently. And may sit out of today's game as a result.
Probable City Team:
17) Boateng - 28) K Toure - 4) Kompany - 13) Kolarov
34) de Jong - 42) Y Toure - 18) Barry
>21) Silva - 32) Tevez - 45) Balotelli
Both teams come into the match high on morale - Stoke after their dismantling of West Brom and City after their hammering of Fulham. We've been playing much better away from home of late whilst Stoke are always extremely difficult to beat at home. I'm expecting a tight game; Stoke are likely to opt for a 4-4-2 which could benefit City who will be looking to dominate possession in the middle of midfield. Delap's long throws have caused us a number of problems in the past and the aerial threat of Kenwyne Jones is going to be Stoke's biggest attacking outlet. Kompany and Toure will have to defend very well today, against both the aerial bombardment and the silky touch of Ricardo Fuller. As for City, we need Kolarov and Boateng bombing down the flanks, a-la Craven Cottage (albeit with Zabaleta) and Silva and Yaya supporting Tevez, and probably Balotelli too if he starts. Prediction: Stoke 1 - 2 MCFC.