Stoke host Man City at the Bet 365 Stadium tonight, with the game set to kick off at 8pm. Stoke are 19th in the table, while Man City are the runaway league leaders.
Stoke come into this game having only been defeated once in their last six games. They only picked up one win from those games though, which was a 2-0 win against Huddersfield in January. A defeat against Bournemouth, with draws against Watford, Brighton, Leicester and Southampton hasn’t been enough to drag them out of the bottom three, but they’re just one point from safety. A draw tonight won’t be enough to lift them out of the bottom three as they have a worse goal difference than Southampton, but it would give them a huge boost as they try to fight to stay in the Premier League.
They’ve been hard to beat, which is definitely a positive thing, but they need to turn some of those draws into wins. There’s definitely a chance they can stay up, but they still have to play Man City, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool between now and the end of the season. Paul Lambert has a big job on his hands, but he certainly has a chance of keeping the Potters up. Taking anything at all from tonight’s game would be amazing, but that will be almost impossible. They were beaten 7-2 by Man City at the Etihad in October, so that shows how hard it will be for them to get anything from this game.
Paul Lambert told Stoke’s official website: “On any given day you can win a game of football.
“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.”
Mame Biram Diouf is set to miss out for Stoke, but Kevin Wimmer and Saido Berahino could be involved.
Man City go into this game knowing the league title is already wrapped up. They had a big 1-0 win over Chelsea last week, and you could see from their players’ and manager’s celebrations that they knew they were just over the line. A 2-1 defeat against Basel during the week didn’t matter as their 4-0 first leg win had the tie won, but they need to avoid complacency now. It’s Pep Guardiola’s job to make sure his players don’t go out on the pitch thinking they already have the game won, and it could be a tricky thing for him to do.
When Man City are at their best, I’m not sure there’s a team in Europe that can stop them. If they turn up today firing on all cylinders they’ll undoubtedly blow Stoke away and win comfortably. They’re just so good from every position on the pitch, and they really can hurt you from anywhere. Whether or not they’ll turn up at their best for the rest of the season is another question though.
We have seen in the past that teams don’t always turn up when they know they have the league won, and that will be a worry for them. They haven’t actually been crowned champions yet, so maybe they won’t be thinking like that at the moment, but Guardiola will be doing whatever he can to ensure they don’t think like that.
Pep Guardiola told Man City’s official website: “The situation this season is exceptional because the [points] distance is not normal at the beginning of March.
“We lost against Basel and the Premier league is quite similar, we are almost champions but we are not done.
“We have to take the points as soon as possible.
“What is going to happen in the quarter-finals depend on our level in the Premier League and in the Premier League it can help us in the quarter-finals.
“That’s why we have to be focused on what we have to do.”
Sergio Aguero will miss the game after suffering a knee injury in training. Fit again Gabriel Jesus will more than likely take his place in the starting line-up. Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph are all close to fitness, but Guardiola says he doesn’t know if they’ll be fit enough to play.
Man City should definitely have far too much quality for Stoke tonight, but you know what they say about a cold, windy night in Stoke. It’s always a difficult place to go, and the place will surely be rocking tonight. The fans need to get behind their team tonight and try to make it as difficult as they can for Man City. What the players do on the pitch will decide how the fans react in the crowd, and Stoke need to show up fighting tonight.
If Stoke give maximum effort and play well they certainly have a chance of getting something tonight. A win will lift them out of the relegation zone, and that should be all the motivation they need. Nobody is expecting them to get anything from the game, but if they can even put a decent performance in they can take some confidence from it ahead of the final few games of the season.
The team news will be out a 7pm, and you’ll find that up on Twitter. Enjoy the game.