20:00 GMT, Monday 12th March, bet365 Stadium (Stoke, England), Sky Sports
Struggling for wins and unable to break out of the relegation zone, Stoke can climb free with an unlikely win against City.
Paul Lambert has tightened up the Potters defence since his arrival with Stoke only conceding four goals from their last six league matches. This period has also seen them keep three clean sheets but their new-found ability will be well tested on Monday evening as the league’s most dangerous attack pay them a visit.
Pep Guardiola’s men are now within sight of claiming the league title this season. Four consecutive wins will deliver the title against their cross-city rivals after the Easter break, however, they will need to prevent a slip against Stoke if this dream is to be realised.
Following a 0-0 draw against the Potters this time last year, this is yet another opportunity of the Citizens to show just how much they’ve progressed during the past 12 months.
Last Time Out
Southampton 0-0 Stoke City (Premier League)
Paul Lambert’s Stoke earned yet another draw with a solid but uninspiring display against fellow relegation-fighting Southampton.
While there were few chances created throughout the 90 minutes for either team, the Potters were the brighter side in the first half.
Although the Saints tried to control the match with more possession, the best chance of the half fell to Badou Ndiaye who saw his header met by the fingertips of Alex McCarthy.
Having made two substitutions before the second half, partly forced by an injury to Mame Biram Diouf, Stoke used a different tactic after the break. It proved less cohesive for the visitors, however, as they found themselves unable to move the ball into attacking areas of the pitch.
With the Saints well on top midway through the second half, it was Jack Butland and some last-ditch defending led by Kurt Zouma and Bruno Martins Indi which Stoke had to thank for a point when the final whistle was blown.
Manchester City 1-2 FC Basel [agg 5-2] (Champions League)
With a comfortable lead from the first leg, City were punished for complacency after taking an early lead against the Swiss side.
The goal itself came after only 7 minutes and looked to herald another emphatic scoreline for the Citizens in this tie. A flowing move which was created by a fine run from Leroy Sané was finished with a pinpoint cross from Bernardo Silva to give Gabriel Jesus a simple finish from close range.
Following the goal, City sat back in the game and looked content to take all momentum out of the match. Guardiola had made six changes to his starting lineup, including bringing Phil Foden and Yaya Touré into midfield. However, they failed to deliver the usual standards expected of City, especially during a timid second half.
Basel’s goals came in the 17th and 71st minutes by Mohamed Elyounoussi and Michael Lang respectively as they looked to save face following their first-leg whitewashing.
While the result was more than enough to see City safely through to the quarter-final stage of the tournament, it was their first home defeat since 2016 and will serve as a timely reminder that they need to earn victories in the future.
Stoke City Lineup
The shoulder injury picked up by Mame Biram Diouf against Southampton will keep him from the game against City while Stephen Ireland (calf) and Kevin Wimmer (fitness) are also expected to remain out of contention.
This could see a rare start for Peter Crouch in attack with an otherwise unchanged line-up from the game against the Saints last weekend.
Manchester City Lineup
Sergio Agüero is set to miss two weeks with a knee injury and will join Ben Mendy (knee) and Fabian Delph (Muscular) who are Guardiola’s only other absentees for this match.
There are, however, small concerns again regarding Fernandinho (hamstring) and Raheem Sterling (muscular) which could lead City to line up with the same starting eleven which faced Chelsea, with the exception of Gabriel Jesus replacing Agüero in attack.
Key Battle: Jack Butland (Stoke City) vs Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Having kept his side well in the game against the Saints, Butland will once more be called into action on Monday. The Stoke keeper responded perfectly following his colossal blunder in the previous game when his own-goal handed a draw to Leicester.
With the England goalkeeper spot still a distinct possibility despite his side having conceded the second-most goals in the league this season, Butland will be determined to maintain his high standards against a team who will be sure to test him.
In the absence of the club’s record scorer, Gabriel Jesus will once more have an opportunity to prove himself as being on a par to Agüero.
With only a combined total of 8 minutes from substitute appearances in the last two league matches and an ineffective display – despite scoring – in the capitulation to Basel last week, the Brazilian striker will be looking for a return to form having just returned from injury.
Picking up two goals in the 7-2 win over Stoke in the reverse fixture, he already has good form facing this particular challenge.
Out of the frying pan….
When Paul Lambert took charge of the Potters in mid-January, defence was a major issue for the troubled side. Along with the addition of two wing-backs in the form of Konstantinos Stafylidis and Moritz Bauer, Lambert has managed to plug the gaping hole at the back of his team.
While the Potters were hardly prolific at the opposite end of the pitch before his arrival, they have only managed to score five goals from the seven games Lambert has been in charge. If they are to fight their way out of their current predicament, they will need to find a way of solving what has now become their main problem.
Stoke suffered relegation from the top-flight in the 1976-77 season exactly because of this reason, finishing with 28 goals scored from what was then a 42-game season. If a repetition of history is to be avoided, Stoke must find a way of picking up wins which will require far more goals than they’re currently managing.
City fell to their first home defeat of the season in a match in which Guardiola admitted his team had forgotten how to attack. There was, however, a new record set by City for the most passes played (1,058) and completed (978) in a Champions League match. While this illustrates how comfortable they were for most of the match, there was a distinct lack of penetration from his side against the Swiss champions.
At the heart of this effort was the defensive players who had most of the ball. With City wary of moving the ball up the pitch, it left Jesus with 2.1% of possession and only 22 successful passes made (29 attempted) during the 90 minutes.
With little danger created by the home team, there was actually the same number of shots put on target by Basel (3) despite the visitors only seeing 22% of possession. While it is certainly an impressive set of statistics that Guardiola’s side took out of this match, it was also a negative scoreline which they were left to reflect on and serve as a warning for how they develop their game in the future.
Prediction: Stoke City 0-3 Manchester City
While Mark Hughes’ stoke managed to stifle City at the beginning of March last year, Lambert’s increased resilience in this Stoke team are still some way behind hitting the levels of past Potters’ sides.
Following their FA Cup defeat to Wigan, City have looked imperious once more and this fixture should prove a mismatch in favour of the league-leaders.
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