Stoke v Manchester City, FA Cup 5th round replay, February 24, 2010
Groundhog day returns to the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday night as Stoke and Manchester City meet for the third time in the space of 11 hectic days.
Fortune finally favoured the Potters last time out at Fratton Park on Saturday evening. Having battled adversity over the last fortnight in the form of injuries to key players and some truly rotten refereeing decisions,Â Stoke found themselves on the receiving end of some good news as they snatched all three points at the death thanks to the unlikeliest of heroes, Salif Diao.
Several points of interest were borne out of the win at Portsmouth for Stoke.
Perhaps the most obvious was a big hole left in the side courtesy of the continued absence of injured winger Matthew Etherington. Neither Tuncay and Rory Delap produced performances of note against the south coasters, and with Etherington set for another missed match as City come to town Tony Pulis may want to rethink his choice of wide-men.
Such a rethink will come though as a disappointment to many Stoke fans who had been campaigning for weeks for the incorporation of the Turk in a wide midfield role. While he saw plenty of the ball, Tuncay failed to deliver anything of note, and tended too often to show positional ill-discipline in drifting infield. The jury on Sanli as a winger within Tony Pulis’ rigid 4-4-1-1 system is still out. (Stoke are 9/1 to win both halves.)
Elsewhere, the poor recent form of goalie Thomas Sorensen continued, with the Dane guilty of failing to hold on to Quincy’s shot and was slow to react to Frederic Piquionneâ€™s finish from the rebound. Sorensen’s extended dip in form can all be sourced to Pulisâ€™ very public pursuit of Portsmouthâ€™s goalkeepers, to the extent that the need for a new No. 1 has become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed, it may not be long before Asmir Begovic is handed the gloves. (Stoke are 5/2 to keep a clean sheet, 4/11 against.)
Flipping to the positives from Portsmouth, Stoke will naturally have been pleased that their excellent form in 2010 continued with the Potters now an impressive 10-games unbeaten. During this time Stoke have faced Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City (twice), and it speaks volumes of the side often wrongly labelled as a long-ball team that they have assured their Premier League position during this tough spell of matches.
Key to Stoke’s success is their battling spirit. Far from being headline-grabbers, Glenn Whelan and Dean Whitehead have formed a solid and combative partnership in the middle of the park, while Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross are a stable a centre-half pairing that rarely put a foot wrong at the back.
Manchester City has a series of selection issues to consider for the match with Stoke, with the main concern centring on the continued absence of Carlos Tevez. City’s top goalscorer has been in Argentina on compassionate leave following the premature birth of his baby daughter and, despite Mancini’s angst to have Tevez back in Blighty as soon as possible, the forward will be missing for his fourth-straight match.
Mancini will also be without the cup-tied Adam Johnson and Patrick Vieira, who was handed a three-match suspension by the Football Association after kicking out at Glenn Whelan in last week’s league encounter with the Potters. Martin Petrov is unlikely to have recovered from his knee problem in time to feature, while Kolo Toure and Roque Santa Cruz will undergo late fitness tests before they are handed a starting berth.
Having regard to Stoke’s physical approach, City should be able to field Joleon Lescott at the back alongside Vincent Kompany after the pair kept Liverpool at bay last weekend. With Micah Richards alongside them, City will be hopeful that they height and presence to counter the threat of Fuller, Sidibie and Delap’s long throws.
Further forward, City could well employ Stephen Ireland to play in the hole behind Emmanuel Adebayor, while the like of Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips bombing on down the respective wings. (Manchester City are 8/1 to win both halves.)
101gg predicts: Stoke 1 – Manchester City 0 (9/1)
Full match odds here.