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Third time lucky?

Following last nights result, next week we now face a third and final encounter in our run of games Stoke on the back of two 1-1 draws - and with very little appearing to separate the stalemate that has developed between the two sides. 

You would be hard pressed to bet against a tight game next Wednesday at The Britannia Stadium, with the possibility of the replay going all the way to a penalty shoot out a very real prospect.

In the two games this past few days, Roberto Mancini has fielded two different formations - 4-5-1 at home in the first FA Cup game, and opting for more of a 4-4-2 away in the league game.

Two different approaches then, but the end result of course the same.

 

The FA Cup tie saw the trio of Wright-Phillips, Petrov and Ireland fielded with Adam Johnson cup tied, whilst the league tie saw a more attritional line-up, designed to counter Stoke's threat at home - a tight, combative midfield with two up front to compensate for the lack of width (although Javi Garrido for Wayne Bridge was a strange one in that respect). This saw the aforementioned trio consigned to the bench until Wright-Phillips and Petrov were added when searching for an equaliser.

Mancini - whilst praising the battling qualities in combating the aerial threat of Stoke - bemoaned the fact that were not aggressive enough later in the game, particularly when Stoke were reduced to ten men.

Will this then have an impact on how he will we see him approach the replay next week?

Our best spell over the two games has been the way in which we began the FA Cup game, where we came out quickly and were the dominant side in going ahead 1-0 early. If we had scored a second before half time the game would likely have been over.

Will Mancini come out and attack though? A dozen or so games in to his tenure shows he has revealed himself to favour a more cautious approach - even moreso since the addition of Patrick Vieira - and it would be a surprise if he decided to go for broke and attacked from the very start in the replay, even with the attacking options at his disposal.

I thought in the league game at The Britannia we handled Stoke's direct balls and constant aerial threat very well (Lescott particularly), countering everything they threw at us. Stoke's gameplan will remain the same so will Mancini risk changing things?

I'm not so sure he will.

A lot will depend on the fitness and/or availability of Tevez and Bellamy. Their loss has been a stark one the past couple of games, and for the patient, counter attacking style their pace and mobility is crucial. I'm certain his gameplan will be to keep the game tight for an hour to weather the threat Stoke will throw at us and then look to stretch the game in order to win the tie. 

Will this be enough though?