English Premier League

Stoke City v Manchester City – Saturday 15th September – Britannia Stadium (16:00)

Carlos Tevez, Manchester City

The Premier League returns this weekend after World Cup and continental cup qualifiers took centre stage last week, leaving many managers praying their players return injury free. The pick of the fixtures sees champions Manchester City travel to the daunting Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City. The physical Stoke side held Arsenal to a goalless draw in their last Premier League home game while Manchester City will be looking to build on their last win at against QPR.

Stoke City are yet to win a match in their three league games, but sit in 12th place after drawing all those matches. It hasn’t been a bad start for The Potters as two of those draws came from away matches against Reading and Wigan. They also did well to match Arsenal in their only home match. They have signed former Liverpool star Michael Owen to boost their attacking options. One of their weaker points in recent seasons has been the presence of a midfield general and Tony Pulis has made a great signing in another ex-Liverpool man in Charlie Adam. Stoke were only beaten four times in the league at the Britannia last season. They drew eight and won seven of their 19 home matches. Since Stoke’s promotion from the Championship in the 2008/09 season, Manchester City have failed to win at the Britannia, drawing 1-1 on the last three occasions and losing 1-0 in 2009.

Manchester City find themselves two points behind league leaders Chelsea, after dropping points at Anfield in their last away match three weeks ago. However, they returned to winning ways at home against QPR, recording a 3-1 win. In a performance not entirely convincing, Yaya Toure gave City the lead in the first half before Bobby Zamora equalised against the run of play on the hour mark. City were back in front though when Edin Dzeko scored inside two minutes of the equaliser before Carlos Tevez added a third in stoppage time to end any lingering anxiety from the home supporters. City started the campaign with a hard-fought 3-2 win at home to newly promoted Southampton. The champions are still looking rusty as they have only shown glimpses of their excellent title winning performances. Sergio Aguero will hopefully give them the kick they need as he returns after missing their last two matches with injury. However, he is likely to start on the bench as his fitness is not 100% and the likes of Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko will need to prove their worth alongside Carlos Tevez in this tough fixture. Roberto Mancini bolstered his squad with five new players on the final day of the transfer window, bringing in Inter Milan’s Maicon, midfielder Javi Garcia from Benfica, winger Scott Sinclair from Swansea City, defender Matija Nastasic of Fiorentina and goalkeeper Richard Wright from Arsenal. They lost Adam Johnson to Sunderland and Nigel de Jong to AC Milan.

Manchester City haven’t reached their peak and this isn’t a ground which will be forgiving. Stoke are tipped to stretch their unbeaten home record to five matches against the champions, with the draw tipped.

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