Manchester City v Stoke, FA Cup fifth round, February 13, 2010
Two teams for whom the FA Cup means a great deal clash in one of the ties of the fifth round on Saturday tea time at Eastlands. Roberto Mancini can be expected to field a strong side as City look to add some silverware to their top four ambitions whilst Stoke will be buoyed by their win over Arsenal in the last round and will know that if they can take this game to a replay they will have a great chance at the Britannia. (Manchester City are 5/1 to win the FA Cup, Stoke are 49/1.)
Manchester Cityâ€™s midweek win over Bolton has left them well placed for the fourth Champions League spot in the Premier League. The 2-0 victory over the Trotters combined with defeats for Liverpool and Spurs with Aston Villa only taking a point off ten man Manchester United, means City have games in hand on all the teams around them.
Last weekâ€™s surprise 2-1 defeat to Hull had put Mancini under pressure since it meant the dapper Italian had lost more games than Mark Hughes this season. A professional display against Bolton with goals from Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor secured the three points and there were encouraging displays from Adam Johnson and Patrick Vieira. (City are 11/10 to score in both halves.)
England Under-21 winger Johnson is cup tied for this match, after he played for Middlesbrough in their third round defeat to his new club. Vieira meanwhile was surprised to play the full 90 minutes on Tuesday night and may be rested with an eye on some important league games coming up.
Joleon Lescott, a substitute in midweek could make his first start since his injury lay-off in place of Kolo Toure (City are 6/5 to keep a clean sheet, 4/5 against) and midfielders Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stephen Ireland and Martin Petrov will all be pushing for inclusion. As ever the likely goal scoring threat will come from Carlos Tevez who scored when these two teams met at Eastlands on Boxing Day in Roberto Manciniâ€™s first game in charge. (City are 9/4 to win both halves.)
Stoke are unbeaten in 2010 in seven matches in all and should give a good account of themselves. Manager Tony Pulis has prioritised the league and said earlier this week: â€œI won’t feel happy until we reach the 40-point target.â€ As a result, the Potters may well rest their top players in preparation for another clash with City on Tuesday night at the Britannia Stadium where they will fancy their chances of an upset.
New keeper Asmir Begovic is cup tied for the trip to Eastlands and there could be starts for a number of fringe players. Former Manchester United youngster Danny Pugh, Liam Lawrence and James Beattie will all be pushing for a first team place after spending much of the midweek draw with Wigan on the bench.
Up front (Stoke are 5/1 to score in both halves) Pulis has a number of options with a choice of Tuncay, Beattie, Mamady Sidibe and Ricardo Fuller all capable of causing trouble to a City defence that is still not as tight as it should be considering the money spent. In particular Turkish striker Tuncay seems to be finding his feet since his summer move from Middlesbrough.
Stoke have had a good run in the competition so far, scoring six goals in two games against York and Arsenal. If City can win this fixture they will be firm favourites to go far and a similar result to their Premier League encounter in December seems likely.
101gg predicts: Manchester City 3 â€“ Stoke 1 (14/1)
Full match odds here.