The match between Stoke City and Manchester City is the biggest clash of the FA Cup fourth round fixtures this weekend. It will be a repeat fixture of the 2011 FA Cup final at Wembley that City won 1-0. Stoke have a good record against City in the Premier League at the Britannia having not lost to the champions in the five seasons since their promotion from the Championship. However, City ran over them at the Etihad in a league fixture on New Year’s Day and that Stoke haven’t been the same team since.
Stoke are in bad form having suffered their third straight league defeat to Swansea last weekend. Michael Owen scored Stoke’s only goal as they were dominated in a 3-1 defeat that dropped them down to 11th spot. They advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup by drawing 0-0 at Crystal Palace and then drawing 1-1 at the Britannia, going on to win the game 4-1 after extra-time. Arguably The Potters’ best player, Jonathan Walters, redeemed himself in that third-round replay, last week. After scoring two own goals and missing a penalty against Chelsea three days prior, the midfielder scored twice in extra-time to make it 3-1 before Kenwyn Jones added more misery on the Championship side to cement a 4-1 victory. Stoke will have to return to their miserly best to avoid another heavy defeat. They have conceded 10 goals in their last 3 league games. That is in stark contrast to their defensive record up to Christmas. Tony Pulis’ side had kept the most clean sheets of any Premier League side with nine and conceded just 13 goals. At the time only Bayern Munich, Malaga and Juventus had conceded fewer in Europe’s major leagues. Stoke have also only won once in their last eight league matches.
Two goals from David Silva saw Manchester City beat Fulham 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium, closing the gap on title rivals Manchester United to just five points. It was a big victory for City, even if it wasn’t exactly pretty. Blues boss Roberto Mancini will want to see a crisper performance on the attack here, especially with regard to passing. The champions are on a good run of form and are now on a five game winning streak. They have scored 14 goals in those 5 matches and will want a repeat of their 3-0 victory over Stoke earlier in the month. City earned their passage to the fourth round with a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship side Watford. Stoke will have it all to do going forward as City have been solid at the back not conceding in their last four matches and boast the best defensive record in the league. Mancini will be without Yaya Toure, the goalscorer of their FA Cup triumph over Stoke 2 years ago. The Ivorian is on Africa Cup of Nations duty. However, City’s star striker Sergio Aguero should return to the starting line-up after returning from injury to feature in the last 10 minutes against Fulham last weekend.
Stoke have been exceptional at home against some of the bigger Premier League teams. However, they are going through a slump of form and after failing to win their last two league home games and drawing in 90 minutes against Crystal Palace at the Britannia, City have to be fancied to continue their great streak.