Manchester City will enter their first game of 2013 left with the feeling of a huge hangover from 2012. They will be aiming to find just the right magic formula to slice away at the 7 point advantage they have given Manchester United in this fixture against Stoke.
City managed to achieve damage limitation last time out and stop the gap extending to 10 points as they edged 4-3 the seven goal thriller at Carrow Road against Norwich. This was in spite of being reduced to ten men with Samir Nasri sent for an early bath.
That victory went some way to reassuring fans of blue persuasion in Manchester that their team are still capable of having a title tilt in the second half of this season. However they know it will count for nothing if they don’t build on that victory here at the Etihad stadium.
They also have the added pressure of Chelsea breathing down their necks with Rafael Benitez’s men hitting a purple patch of late and they remain only 4 points adrift of Roberto Mancini’s team.
Stoke on the other hand, will be in buoyant mood after a Cameron Jerome screamer secured them an unlikely home point against Southampton in their last fixture.
The Potters have not been quite as successful on the road though and have only managed to muster one win away from the Britannia all season. It is not all bad news as they have managed to collect 6 creditable away draws.
Pulis’ side sit pretty going into this fixture unbeaten in 10 Premier League fixtures and they will be keen to upset their hosts here too and rise even higher than their impressive 8th in the table.
It won’t be an easy task though as they have not taken any points in Manchester against City since 1997 when they won 1-0 on that occasion.
City could have Nasri available if they decide to appeal his red card. Mario Balotelli (virus) is not yet ready to take his place in the squad while full-backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon (knee) also remain on the treatment table. Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell are out for the long term too.
Steven Nzonzi will be in the Starting XI after appealing against his sending-off against the Saints, when he was shown a red card for an alleged stamp on Southampton’s Jack Cork.
Geoff Cameron returns from suspension and could slot back in. Rory Delap (hernia) and Marc Wilson (broken leg) remain on the sidelines.
Only QPR (11) have been given more red cards in the Premier League since the start of last season than Man City (7). The Citizens would want to avoid any sendings off to give themselves an easy ride here.
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