Roberto Mancini’s men have seen their advantage cut to only two points in the last month and a half and briefly dropped to second following United’s win at QPR on Sunday. However they were back on top a few hours later after beating Arsenal by the skin of their teeth displaying an entirely different side to their game. Whilst the usual flair and panache was on show City were forced to scrap for their three points against the Gunners who were unlucky not to leave the Etihad with a share of the spoils. Whilst supporters will have been disappointed that the usual glut of goals was absent they will be pleased to know their side can adapt their game and win ugly when it’s required. That resilience will be key to beating a Stoke side renowned for their rugged approach on the field. Credit has to go to Mancini for selecting the players necessary for the occasion with Pablo Zabaleta showing his worth to the team with some superb performances over the last couple of weeks. The same can be said for Sergio Agüero who was a constant menace on Sunday whilst David Silva continued his stunning season with another virtuoso performance. Manicini will be expecting another display mixed with dashes of brio and grit as they look to win for their ninth home game on the trot.
They’ll certainly be in for a tough encounter against the Potters who are chasing a fifth victory on the spin after coming from behind to beat Wolves at Molineux last week. Stoke have been excellent in recent weeks recovering from a minor blip to put themselves right back in to contention for a top-six finish. Tony Pulis’ side sit just five points behind Liverpool but will head to the blue half of Manchester knowing they will have to be at their bruising best to beat the league leaders. They’ll need to replicate their performance from Molineux last week where they recovered from going a goal down to secure all three points and consolidate their top half position. Peter Crouch was at the forefront of everything good about Stokes play in the Midlands and goes to the Etihad Stadium chasing his 100th league goal in top-flight football. Matthew Etherington has also stepped up his game in recent weeks and will be key to breaking City’s water tight back four that has conceded only 15 goals this season.
Manchester City 1st : 41 points
Team news: Gael Clichy returns from suspension to ease City’s left back problem with first choice Aleksander Kolarov out until January with a groin strain.
Key player: David Silva
The Spaniard has been City’s beacon of inspiration this season and was up to his old tricks against Arsenal last week. Whilst Silva equalled his goal scoring tally of last season by netting his sixth of the campaign against Arsenal on Sunday it was his overall performance that got tongues wagging once again. His guile on the wing gives him the ability to carve teams open with a winding run or defence slipping pass. His elegance will prove to be vital against Stokes brutish style.
Stoke City 8th : 24 points
Team news: Skipper Ryan Shawcross will miss out due to suspension whilst Glenn Whelan and Andy Wilkinson are also sidelined with injury.
Key Player: Peter Crouch
Whilst many might have balked at the £10 million Stoke paid Tottenham for Crouch’s services the England striker has added a touch of elegance to the Potters’ heavy-duty attack. His aerial presence will be required at both ends this week with captain Ryan Shawcross suspended for the game against City.
City are desperate to maintain their lead at the top ahead of rivals United and will need to show the same grit and determination that aided them in Sunday’s win over Arsenal. Stoke will go to the Etihad knowing that if they impose themselves physically they may stand a chance of leaving with points under their belts.