Five reasons Stoke can beat Man City in Saturday Premier League scuffle
Holly Thackeray | August 19, 2016
Five reasons Stoke can beat Man City
Poor Pep Guardiola. It’s only the Catalan coach’s second Premier League game in charge of Manchester City, but he already faces one of the English top-flight’s biggest challenges, as pundits would have you believe anyway, with a trip to the Potteries.
Man City must face Stoke City, knowing that, should they lose or even draw, gaffer Guardiola will forever be questioned as to whether his team can do it on a cold, wet Wednesday night in Stoke.
This match may arrive on a Saturday lunchtime, but that will be no consolation to Guardiola, as the plucky Potters have actually won two of the past four frays with City.
So, Coral writers consider five reasons Stoke can beat Man City again this weekend and spoil Pep’s first away party. Will the stadium formerly known as the Britannia be a banana skin again?
The Potters (a 4/1 shout for victory with Coral) memorably sank the Sky Blues to nil on home soil last season in what was a pre-Christmas blow to their title aspirations.
And in fact, Stoke have lost only one of their last eight Premier League clashes with the Citizens at the Potteries, which has proved far from a happy hunting ground for the Mancunians.
Despite being classed as a Midlands club, the relative close proximity of the Staffordshire side to Manchester means collisions with the big clubs from the Rainy City can tend to have the atmosphere of a local derby, whipping hosting fans into a frenzy.
One glaring vulnerability in an otherwise impressive on the surface City squad is the lack of a shot stopping superstar in net.
Joe Hart may have his weaknesses, and is no sweeper keeper in the Guardiola style, but the England number one is still infinitely better at protecting the posts than cult hero keeper Willy Caballero.
The Argentine back-up option has so far been selected to start over Hart for two consecutive clashes, and is thus expected to retain his place in the XI at the Potteries – but this could prove an error from the Sky Blues perspective.
With rumours of an Etihad exit gathering pace it may not be wise to throw Hart into the mix now, but Caballero could face a tricky time despite his apparent better ball playing ability, not just due to Stoke’s attack but remaining set-piece threat. As even Sunderland showed, the keeper can be got at.
The Mark Hughes factor
Of course, as for coaching opposition, Guardiola has a former Man City manager to contend with. Often overlooked, the Welshman has transformed the Midlands men from notoriously defensive game spoilers and long ball merchants, into a team in the former Manchester United and Barcelona marksman’s own image.
Hughes may have introduced possession play and attacking intent to the Potteries ranks, as well as significant pull with transfers due to his pedigree as a player and ability to sell this Stoke project, but he has also attempted to retain that same defensive stability Stoke were renowned for previously under Tony Pulis.
Admittedly, it doesn’t always come off for the Potters (a double chance at 23/20 to win or draw), but they should be targeting a top half finish this term. And, in Hughes, Guardiola will be facing not only a manager that knows how to mix it up between attack and defence, but also a man undoubtedly motivated to beat his old club – and know exactly how to target them.
As well as conquering City last term, Hughes’ team also picked points from big scalps such as West Ham United, Manchester United, Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham and Everton. So, Guardiola beware!
Man City’s soft centre
Much depends on which XI Guardiola decides to deploy but, if the Spanish tactician opts for Aleksandar Kolarov out of position over Nicolas Otamendi as a ball-playing centre back alongside John Stones with two full backs cutting in to act as extra midfielders, it could be an interesting lunchtime liaison.
Man City’s new style, with Brazilian shield Fernandinho dropping deeper to help out the stretched centre halves, could be taken advantage of by Stoke’s pace and guile on the counter and the Potters are 15/2 to win and both teams score.
Steaua Bucharest were cut to shreds by the approach, which sees Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva both operating further back in free midfield roles with all of Sergio Aguero, Nolito and Raheem Sterling roaming in attack.
Yet, Stoke are no fools, and can use Gianelli Imbula and Joe Allen to disrupt the centre of the park, while aiming to overpower the flanks.
If Guardiola sticks to his tactical guns without tinkering to face this savvier opponent, he could well come a cropper.
Arnautovic, Bojan and Shaquiri a terrific trio
The Potters can also play football of course, and look tremendous in attack when all of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri are firing.
Two of the aforementioned trio in Bojan (8/1 for the opener) and Shaqiri (10/3 anytime) were previous charges of Guardiola, but never favourites, setting the stage for both or either to prove a point to Pep.
While, it was mercurial Arnautovic (7/2) who grabbed the winner versus City last time, and the Austria international should be licking his lips at the potential defensive picks.
Mame Biram Diouf (11/4) dispatched the winner two seasons ago at the Eithad also, and will be aiming to nip in between the lines as the Citizens iron out the creases in their new system.
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Let us know in the comments section below if you think Stoke can spoil the Pep party!