A Rampant Manchester City welcome Stoke City to the Etihad tonight with the hosts seeking to move up to second place in the table. Guardiola's men have been in brilliant touch in the past month scoring at their will. Stoke, on the other hand, have endured mixed fortunes in the aforementioned time duration and a win here can help them close the gap on eighth-placed West Bromwich as Mark Hughes aim to make his side attain their best-ever league finish this campaign.
The two outfits have previously met on 110 occasions, with City leading the head-to-head with 49 wins to Stoke City's 37. The reverse fixture earlier in the season saw braces from Sergio Aguero and Nolito lead the Sky Blues to a comfortable 4-1 win at the bet365 stadium.
A CHANCE TO SURGE UP THE TABLE BECKONS FOR CITY
Manchester City weren't at their convincing best in the 2-0 victory over Sunderland but nonetheless, got the job done. The win extended their unbeaten streak to 9 matches across all competitions. The run has saw the Citizens replicate their scintillating early season form and things are certainly on the up for Guardiola's army. City look assured of a top 3 finish if they are to keep up this rich vein of form but this won't be enough to satisfy the players let alone the manager himself as they still harbour title hopes. They have a great chance to cut the down the gap between themselves and Chelsea to 8 points provided they win the game.
A victory tonight would definitely turn up a little bit of heat on Chelsea and would ascertain the fact that City aren't giving in until the title race is done and dusted. Last three wins for City over Stoke witnessed the Sky Blues scoring four goals past their opponents on each of those occasions. With the Potters struggling on the road, City have a great opportunity to pile up some pressure on the leaders.
KEEP ON PUSHING! ????
— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 8, 2017
MANCHESTER CITY TEAM NEWS
Vincent Kompany (muscle), Gabriel Jesus (metatarsal fracture) and Ilkay Gundogan (ACL) will be certain absentees for the hosts. Kevin De Bruyne, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi should be recalled into the starting eleven in place of Yaya Toure, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy respectively.
STOKE LOOKING FOR SOME RESPITE ON THEIR TRAVELS
Stoke City's home form has been decent but their away form is getting worse with each passing month. The 4-0 obliteration at White Hart Lane 10 days ago was the third instance in last six away games that the Potters ended up shipping four goals. The result meant Stoke failed to score in back-to-back matches on the road for the first time this season. Though they won once in last six away games, that win came at rock bottom Sunderland in January. The recent 2-0 over another relegation-threatened team in the form of Middlesbrough will have restored some confidence but the game against City will be their biggest test.
If Mark Hughes' men are looking for inspiration, then they should look no further than the match they won against the opponent they are going to take on tonight couple of seasons ago at the Etihad. Mame Biram Diouf's brilliant solo effort gave the Potters their most recent away win over a top 6 club. Stoke's early season visit to Manchester when they earned a hard-fought draw against United is another perfect example of resilience to look up for the visitors. Stoke may not be anywhere near the peak of their game right now but these two aforementioned samples of their own brilliant performances could be enough to provide them much-needed motivation.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) March 8, 2017
STOKE CITY TEAM NEWS
Jack Butland is finally back in training but is far from being match fit to feature in the game. Former City man Steven Ireland (broken leg) won't be available as well. Glenn Johnson has a shoulder problem and is likely to miss out. Joining him on the sidelines would be Bruno Martins Indi who sustained a knee injury late in the win over Middlesbrough. The duo should be replaced by Phil Bardsley and Marc Muniesa in the starting lineup. Xherdan Shaqiri has recovered from a calf problem but is only fit enough to start from the bench. Marko Arnautovic is suffering from an illness but should be fine to start the match.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Zabaleta(C), Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane; Aguero.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross(C), Muniesa, Pieters; Cameron, Adam; Sobhi, Allen, Arnautovic; Crouch.
PLAYER TO WATCH OUT
The Argentine sniper has scored 5 goals in his last three appearances against the Potters. Aguero is seemingly back to his best and Stoke's rearguard will undoubtedly have their work cut out stopping the rejuvenated striker from scoring tonight.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 8, 2017
MANCHESTER CITY 3-1 STOKE CITY
Both sides boast a fragile backline and the game would be certainly decided by who's more clinical upfront. With the Citizens in devastating attacking form at the moment, it's a no-brainer which side will emerge triumphant on the night at the end of 90 minutes at the Etihad.
Live on STAR SPORTS SELECT HD2 on Thursday, 9 March at 01:30 IST.