Stoke will travel to face Manchester City in Etihad Stadium on Saturday in what promises to be an exciting Premier League match. Review our expert handicappers' match breakdown and soccer picks.
Lethargy isn’t something you often see levelled at a Stoke team, but the manager Mark Hughes wasn’t happy with his side’s second below-par performance on the spin in the Premier League. They drew 1-1 against a Hull side who were playing their third game in eight days and who had Chris Chester sent off in the 14th minute. Hughes has decided to go “back to basics” which can only mean defending first and foremost and then look to increase the passing and attacking elements of their game. In his post-match comments to the Stoke Sentinel the Potters’ manager said: “The tempo and accuracy of our passing wasn’t as good as in pre-season even, and certainly not to the standards we were producing last season. It’s understandable to a certain extent just two games in, but I had hoped we would be up to speed by now.”
They aren’t the most encouraging comments going to the champions’ home ground, but it does give us a clue of the way he will set up his team at the Etihad: defensively. Stoke have been level with Man City at half time in five of the last six matches they have played against them and that is something I can see again here. It’s priced up at 2/1 for the sides to be drawing at half time and that is one of my favourite soccer picks this weekend.
Manchester City don’t rush, they trust their ability to open teams up eventually. Liverpool were the better side in the first 40 minutes on Monday night, but they didn’t score and the men in blue trust themselves to take chances when they come along.
Stevan Jovetic shone in the 3-1 win over Brendan Rodgers’ men and is showing signs of finally getting his City career up and running, after a frustrating season with injury in the title winning campaign. Sergio Aguero did it again. In the game at Newcastle he had seven minutes on the pitch and grabbed a goal, on Monday he scored with his first touch after just 23 seconds as a second half substitute. You have to put him in your goal-scorer bets, or if he doesn’t start back him to score next in play whenever he comes on.
One thing I have mentioned before about City is their tactic of fouling the opposition to break up the play, in the same way we saw from South American sides at the World Cup. They committed double the fouls Liverpool did on Monday, but they were only given a solitary yellow card, for a shove by Yaya Toure on Couthino. Now this tactic seems to be evident against the teams who are able to threaten City on the break or pass as well them, so it’s debatable whether we will see it versus Stoke, especially if Hughes’ team do set up a road block for the champions.
It is worth bearing in mind for future matches against fellow top six sides.
Soccer picks: Overall, I’m happy to go for the HT draw FT Manchester City win at 17/5, the game to be level at half time at 2/1 or for the less intrepid the game to be tied at 30 minutes at 10/11.