A look ahead to Stoke

stoke

Last week may have been both a defining performance and victory, but Roberto Mancini and his side are immediately handed a testing trip to the Britannia Stadium to take on a Stoke side where Mancini struggled last season in both League and Cup.

Points were dropped and off course FA Cup defeat experienced as City never quite got to grips with playing a resolute and energetic Stoke side, who are gradually casting aside their 'bruiser' tag a little as they become more and more established as a Premier League side.

Although just three points off the top of the league after spending most of November in the midst of a crisis, City players are not resting on their laurels. First up, Vincent Kompany

"We've had some good performances this season but this was of a very high standard, but this is the level we need to match the heights we reached last Sunday every time we play and for the rest of the season.

"We can't slip or only perform the way we did against Fulham every now and then - we need to be consistent until the last kick of the season."    

And Aleksandar Kolarov, coming off an impressive performance at Craven Cottage:

"I hope we can take that performance into the next game, because we played very well, especially in the first half when we scored three goals. Now we have to keep up that concentration and hard work at Stoke."    

With Mario Balotelli having served his three-game ban and Jerome Boateng likely fit again, Mancini could well select his 'strongest' side for the fixture. Balotelli will likely come in for Jo, with Aleksandar Kolarov allowing for a more attacking option, and Pablo Zabaleta's suspension could open the door for Boateng. 

City are heading into an interesting run of games: Stoke (a), Bolton (h) and West Ham (a) (in addition to closing out the Europa League) - all winnable games of course but good tests for a side who, having got themselves back in the race for the top, need to pull out wins now the expectation is firmly back on them.

With  two games being on the road starting with Stoke, there should be more space and opportunity for a City side who impressed in wins at both West Brom and Fulham.

Expect them to continue the recent form with all three points on Saturday.
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