14th September 2012
Manchester City players could find it hard to focus on the game at Britannia Stadium given they travel to Santiago Bernabeu just three days later, but with Chelsea breaking clear at the Premier League summit, the Citizens need to find enough motives for a win. Boosted by the arrival of three new players, the Potters will give their best to put a dent into City’s title bid, even if it means playing out a fourth straight draw.
Having seen his pretty small squad stretched to the limit last season, Tony Pulis finally decided to try and improve the strength of depth, even if there will be no European distractions for Potters this term. While young Jamie Ness won’t be used a great deal this season, fellow new signings Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly, Steven N’Zonzi and Michael Owen are likely to have a big role to play, and they should make the team better than it were. The three opening Premier League draws as well as the shock Capitol One Cup defeat to Swindon showed that the Potters are far from the desired form and with Steven N’Zonzi and Charlie Adam likely to be handed debuts, Stoke could be forgiven if they happen to appear a bit rusty against Manchester United. Arsenal did not have enough cutting edge to punish the Potters in the season opener at Britannia Stadium, but I seriously doubt City will be as forgiving.
Even if Roberto Mancini has spent much of the summer crying over the lack of high-profile signings, the fact that not too many world-class players arrived at Etihad could prove to be a blessing in disguise. The Citizens did boost their ranks with Javi Garcia, Maicon, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic on transfer deadline day, but with the Brazilian defender the only one expected to slot right into the starting line-up, it is highly unlikely that these will upset the balance of the squad. Manchester City did well to pick up seven points from the first three games and even if they were well below par at Anfield, I believe they can be trusted to bring all three points from the Britannia. Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli are both back in contention, while all the new signings are available for selection as well.
Stoke usually prove to be a handful at their Britannia Stadium and three straight draws prove the Potters remain as hard to beat as ever. However, Tony Pulis’ side are not exactly on top of their game at the moment and with Manchester City looking pretty good at the start of the season, away win look a good bet here.
Verdict: Away win Manchester City (2)
Best Odds: 3/4
Bookmaker: William Hill