Game recap: Manchester City 3 Stoke 0

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 17: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City scores his second goal from a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at City of Manchester Stadium on May 17, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

No FA Cup hangover then.

There was the fear that City may be caught cold in the aftermath of Saturday's victory, but it was apparent early that Stoke were a deflated side whilst City were in their pomp, chests puffed out and displaying a confidence that translated into one of (if not the) most convincing performances of the season.

Three goals - a well worked move, a header(!) and a blistering free-kick (the best since Elano's at that same end against Newcastle?) made what had been successful week even better as City leapfrogged Arsenal into third place in the Premier League table. A trip to Bolton now the final hurdle to ensuring automatic qualification into the Champions League for 2011/12.

What should not be forgotten amidst the celebrations in recent days is quite how well City have timed their run in the latter stages of the season. The odd blip on Merseyside apart, whilst sides elsewhere have seen their form dip, City have stepped up; tightening the defence even further and having the wherewithal to get on a winning run (28 points from 30 in the last ten home games testament to this).

Carlos Tevez of course grabbed the headlines. Benefitting from the minutes he received on Saturday, he looked sharper and his free-kick a stunning effort: combining power, precision and placement and he now has an opportunity to finish the season as outright top scorer after drawing level with Dmitar Berbatov.

There may still be speculation over his future, but should he depart that was some way to sign off.

Most impressive on the night though was perhaps James Milner. Peripheral for the most part this season - either on the bench or out wide - he was central both in position and importance. Picking the ball up deep, driving forward at will, he hinted at his best Aston Villa form and is undoubtedly a better player as part of a midfield trio.

Onto the Reebok Stadium then on Sunday to finish the season. Given the buoyancy surrounding the club at present you have to say it would be a huge surprise if City were to now let slip the opportunity to finish in third place - for what would be their highest since 1977.

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