Stoke City-Manchester City Preview
Manchester City are aiming to jump back into third place in the Premier League on Saturday when the club welcomes Stoke City to the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini's men are on the hunt for another three points following a disappointing, but not altogether shocking 1-1 draw midweek with a desperate Newcastle United side at St James' Park. Sergio Aguero hit the century mark to give his side the early lead, but Newcastle battled back to earn a draw.
Aguero's 14th-minute strike allowed him to reach 100 goals in just 147 matches – the second-quickest to reach that plateau, behind only Alan Shearer.
"He deserves it because he makes an important difference," Pellegrini said. "He's a great technical player with a lot of power and I am very happy for him."
It's always a tough slog in the North East at St James' Park, but Pellegrini said he was pleased with his team's result in a hostile environment.
"I'm happy because we started winning the game, but we didn't have the control and we didn't play very well but we knew before the game that it was a very difficult match," the manager said.
"After the goal, we didn't have so many chances, Newcastle didn't create too many either but the draw was a fair result in the 90 minutes. Playing three days after a big game at the end of the season makes it hard to be 100 percent. The team was different also because we made some changes and that's why the game was not the same."
With the club's first Champions League semifinal Tuesday versus Real Madrid on the horizon, the Citizens must be careful not to overlook a tough Stoke side as they aim to secure Champions League football for next season. Manchester City (18-7-9) dropped to fourth in the table after Arsenal defeated West Bromwich Albion on Thursday, but they're also only two points ahead of archrivals Manchester United.
After earning a tough point in a 2-2 draw with Swansea City, the Potters (13-8-13) have hit a rut in form, coming off consecutive 4-1 and 4-0 thrashings at the hands of Liverpool and Tottenham, respectively. The most recent of these defeats came Monday when Harry Kane and Deli Ali scored a brace apiece as Spurs ran rampant at Brittania Stadium.
Still, Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes his club's recent form has little bearing on the task at hand Saturday.
"Under any circumstances it would a challenge for us - regardless if we are going in to the game in good form or bad form," Hughes said at Thursday's pre-match press conference. "Obviously we are concerned by the previous couple of performances and results, but that aside, we know that this weekend will be a huge challenge for us.
"That said, we know that we can go to big clubs and big stadiums and perform, and claim positive results. My feeling is that we will be fine at the weekend, although it may not be enough on the day, because if City perform and play to their potential then they are difficult to overcome. What I am looking for though is for us to execute our game-plan and give a better account of ourselves than we have done recently."
The Potters claimed a 2-0 win over Manchester City in the reverse fixture back on Dec. 5. Marko Arnautovic bagged a brace inside the opening 20 minutes to give Hughes' boys all three points.
Stoke, who have never done the double over Manchester City in the Premier League era, have won two of the last three league matches between the teams after a 10-match winless spell (0-5-5) versus the Citizens.