Our third game against Stoke then in ten days (and being streamed live on ITV.com), with neither the first FA Cup tie nor last weeks league game producing a winner. In the recent two games, there was little really to separate the two sides, with both games ending 1-1. Arguably our most dominant period (and that of any side) in the two games was the opening half hour of the first FA Cup when we attcked Stoke and had the measure of them.
It is perhaps strange then that Roberto Mancini has talked of 'fighting fire with fire' and matching Stoke's physical and direct style of play. It is difficult to predict the side, and there aren't a whole host of options available to Roberto Mancini. It is likely that we will start off with a 4-5-1 formation with Adebayor the front man supported by Bellamy and Wright-Phillips, with a midfield trio of de Jong, Barry and possibly Pablo Zabaleta or Vincent Kompany. My preference is for Kompany to remain in defence given the positive partnership with Lescott and he is better equipped to deal with the aerial threat. However, it may be well be that Roque Santa Cruz (if fit) returns to the side, likely at the expense of Wright-Phillips, although his off colour showing in the league game should serve as a warning.
Roberto Mancini goes into the game with questions over his tactics and methods hanging over him and there is no doubt that victory would provide a huge boost to the side, whose confidence has dipped of late. Stoke will not be underestimated though, and their 2010 record is impressive - unbeaten in ten games and having seen Arsenal off in the previous round.
There does have to be a winner on the night though, and it is not too much of a stretch to suggest extra-time or even penalties will be required to settle it. For all the criticism we received on Sunday, tactically, the display would have pleased Mancini. By and large we denied Liverpool the opportunity to create and defensively performed well. Stoke will be the likelier side to attack, and I feel this is where we can win the tie.
If defensively we cope with the threat of Stoke, as the game wears on, we have the players and pace in the side capable of stretching the game and opening Stoke up. We have proved capable of neutering the threat of Stoke's direct play - the goal in the league game the result of a poor clearance and lapse from Shay Given - and we will surely show more creative spark than we did last week by virtue of the inclusion of Craig Bellamy.
We will be the more patient of the two sides, and look to control the tempo and possession of the game. This could frustrate Stoke who will be keen to come out and have a fast start and put us under immediate pressure.
It may not likely be a classic, but it will be a classic away performance. A 1-0 victory to set up a quarter-final clash at Chelsea.