By Antony Jordan
Following their FA Cup replay last week that saw them make the Quarter Finals of the oldest cup competition in the world, Manchester City welcome Stoke City to The Etihad Stadium this Wednesday evening to play their game in hand. The home side can move above Tottenham and into second place in the league with victory, while an away win will see former Man City boss Mark Hughes’ side move to within two points of the top eight after an awful start to the season. Who’ll take the points though?
We preview this only midweek Premier League match with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our top EPL pick from the blue half of Manchester.
Pep Guardiola remains without the long term injured players Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan for this evening’s match and although both have impressed in their short times at the club the Spanish manager will be happy with the number of players he has to cover these positions. However, there are doubts over captain Vincent Kompany once again and if the Belgian defender cannot play then this will be a massive blow.
Things are different for Stoke manager Mark Hughes as influential attacking figure Xherdan Shaqiri returns after a five game injury layoff, but it is not all good news for the away team. There are big doubts over key players Marko Arnautovic, Glen Johnson and Bruno Martins Indi for this clash and striker Wilfried Bony cannot play against his parent club so will need to sit this one out.
City come into this match in impressive form having won seven and drawn two of their last nine games in all competitions and they have been especially good on home soil too. They have won six and drawn two of their last eight at The Etihad since suffering a 3-1 defeat here to Chelsea at the start of December and they have netted 21 times in this unbeaten stretch. The only issue is that they have kept just one clean sheet in front of their fans since September and conceded nine in their last six clashes. The question is if Kompany is out for this match will they be able to end this run of conceding goals?
Stoke have won two of their last three matches before travelling North to Manchester as Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough were defeated, but the issue is that both of these victories came on home soil and they have lost five of their last six away clashes away from the Bet365 Stadium. They have faced the other four teams in the top five and they have lost all of these clashes, conceding 15 goals. However, they did find the net against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea with only Tottenham shutting them out. With City’s poor defensive record can they add Pep Guardiola’s team to the list of big names they have found the net against?
The last six meetings between these teams have seen City win four matches and Stoke take the points in two of them, including triumphing 1-0 at The Etihad at the start of the 2014/15 season. However, the last two meetings between the sides have seen City win 4-0 and 4-1 with Sergio Aguero netting three times. This grows to five times in the last four meetings of the sides too and the Argentine in form right now with five goals in his last three games too.
Stoke have shown regularly that they do not have what it takes to defeat the biggest and best sides in the EPL when they are away from home and with City impressing on home soil with an in-form and on fire Sergio Aguero we cannot see anything but another victory for Pep Guardiola’s men this Wednesday evening.