As the struggle for the Premier League enters its closing stages, lowly Stoke City host runaway leaders Manchester City at the Bet365 Stadium on Tuesday.
13 March 2018
Game week 30
Kick-off: 04:00 (HKT)
Venue: Bet365 Stadium
Referee: J. Moss
Assistants: A. Holmes, A. Halliday
Fourth official: A. Marriner
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Stoke City 29 24 38
Manchester City 38 24 29
Manchester City 7-2 Stoke City (14/10/2017) Premier League
Manchester City goalscorers: Gabriel Jesus (17′, 55′), Raheem Sterling (19′), David Silva (27′), Fernandinho (60′), Leroy Sane (62′), Bernardo Silva (79′)
Stoke City goalscorers: Mame Diouf (44′), Kyle Walker own goal (47′)
Players to watch:
Having finally recovered from a lengthy injury lay-off, Gabriel Jesus started and scored for Manchester City in midweek against Basel. He will be hungry for goals and could pose a major threat to the Stoke defence if he starts.
If not Jesus, then Pep Guardiola will likely turn to Sergio Aguero, who has led the line with distinction in his absence and already has 21 Premier League goals to his name this season.
There hasn’t been much to cheer about for Stoke this season, but they at least have an in-form player in Xherdan Shaqiri. The former FC Bayern Muchen man netted in recent games against Brighton and Leicester and will be looking to add to his tally of seven league goals this term.
Team form and manager quotes:
Stoke have played to successive draws with Brighton (1-1), Leicester (1-1) and Southampton (0-0) in their last three games. Ahead of Monday’s match in hand, they sit one point behind 17th-placed Southampton, but with a goal difference of -26 compared to Saints’ -15.
By contrast, a win would see Manchester City move within nine points of wrapping up the league title. Despite suffering a 2-1 defeat to Basel in midweek, they cruised to the Champions League quarter-finals with a 5-2 aggregate win.
However, manager Pep Guardiola admitted he would rather not spend his Monday night in the dugout.
“I have bad experiences playing games on Mondays,” said Guardiola. “You have to be focused because Stoke away is always complicated. [They are] fighting to be in the Premier League.
“We were lucky last season to win there. When we face teams who are fighting to stay in the Premier League, it is complicated.
“I don’t like to play on Monday because the weekend, everybody is involved, and when the weekend is over, they are like ‘the weekend is over’, there are no more games, but we have to play.
“Sometimes in Barcelona, I remember when we played on Monday, a long time ago, always it was not good.
“At Wigan we lost because we played for 55 minutes with 10 against 11. We weren’t precise enough to score a goal.”
Meanwhile, Stoke boss Paul Lambert pointed to the Champions League trophy he won as a player with Borussia Dortmund as proof that no upset is too much to dream of in football.
“On any given day you can win a game of football,” he stressed. “If I go back to my own playing career, did anyone give Borussia Dortmund a chance against the great Juve side in 97? Probably not.
“Probably everybody and their dog thought Juve would win. In a one-off game, you can win, and that is the beauty of football. We’ll do everything we can to try to win.
“I know it will be incredibly tough, but also we have to try to entertain as well and try to make it a game that they don’t really want.
“If we try to play football the same way they do, then we will be beat, that is the reality. We have to have an idea of another way to try to beat them.”
Pep Guardiola is hoping to welcome Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph back into action after the trio were hit by injury. Meanwhile, David Silva is available to return after missing the Basel clash due to personal reasons.
Kevin Wimmer and Saido Berahino, who have been placed on programmes to improve their fitness, could possibly return to the Stoke matchday squad.