Man City’s failure to beat Newcastle in midweek, coupled with Man Utd and Arsenal’s wins, has put the pressure right back on the Citizens as they look to secure a top-four finish. Stoke, meanwhile, have little to play for with another top-half finish likely but the chances of improving on their ninth places of the past two seasons remote.
The big question for City is whether they choose to rotate with the first le of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid only on Tuesday. Kevin de Bruyne has already made six appearances this month, including a full 90 against Chelsea last weekend and Newcastle on Tuesday evening, while Sergio Aguero has only missed 15 minutes in those six games.
City’s form had looked to be improving with three consecutive wins in the league and the progression in the Champions League but the 2-1 over West Brom and now the 1-1 with Newcastle have been anything but impressive and they’ve got a long way to go before they can claim to be playing consistently well. They can perhaps be grateful that Stoke look to have completely stopped playing, having conceded eight times in their last two games, but Mark Hughes has got them playing well at the end of the previous two campaigns – going W6-D3-L3 in their final six games of those two years – so City shouldn’t bank on these points being gifted to them.
And Sparky has certainly shown an ability to give City problems with this Stoke side – winning here last season and in the first meeting this team – while the other United old boys in the squad, Phil Bardsley, Mame Diouf and Ryan Shawcross, will surely all be keen to do their old club a favour.
At home, City have managed just three clean sheets in their last 15 home games as they’ve lost five times and won by more than one goal on just six occasions. The good news for them is in Stoke’s record away to top teams. They lost eight of 10 at top-five finishers in the previous two seasons and have picked up just one point from their four trips to the current top five this term. That includes defeat by more than one goal in half these 14 matches. However, they’ve already won more away games this term than in any previous Premier League season and, with City’s distractions and inconsistency, the Potters look good value on the handicap, much as West Brom did in City’s last home game.
Goals backers might consider that Stoke have scored in eight of their last nine matches and there have been at least four goals in half of Man City’s 22 home games since the start of last season when conceding. However, West Brom delivered for us on the handicap here a couple of weeks ago and that is our best bet once again.
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