Pep Guardiola's first week in charge of Manchester City was very good. Two impressive performances, two victories, a completely different style of play that has caught the eye of everyone that watches Premier League football. There are very few injuries, most players (most, not all) adore the coach and are very excited for the future of the team with him.
Now, Pep faces the first real test of his young City career. A visit to Stoke City is never easy, regardless of the opposition. Everybody suffers when they play at the Britannia (now the bet365 Stadium, because #brand), and for the Sky Blues it's a particularly difficult matchup: Stoke has only lost once when facing the Citizens of Manchester at home. One win in eight visits is definitely not a good record, and Guardiola has some very tough 90 minutes to look for on Saturday.
This should (not) be fun.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 20, 2016, 12:30pm local time (BST), 7:30am ET, 4:30am PT (US), 5pm IST (India)
Venue: bet365 Stadium, Stoke on Trent, England
Referee: Mike Dean
On TV: NBCSN (US), Sky Sports 1 (UK), Star Sports 4 HD (India), elsewhere
Man City team news: Guardiola spoke to the press on Friday, and there are very few new things to talk about: Joe Hart and Yaya Touré are still not starting, Kompany and Gundogan are still not ready to play, and Bacary Sagna has a small problem but should make the trip without any issues. Leroy Sané started training, but his debut is not expected until after the international break.
Other than that, there are no suspensions or major injuries to worry about, and after a very easy 5-0 win against Steaua in Bucharest, the fitness level of the starters in Romania is good enough for them to start again at Stoke. Guardiola does change two or three players for every game, so there could be a little rotation. Nothing major, though.
Predicted City XI (very fluid 4-1-4-1):
Caballero | Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy | Fernandinho | Navas, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling | Agüero
Stoke City team news: Unlike City, the Potters have an important player to worry about for the home opener: Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri has dealt with an ankle injury since the last preseason game against Hamburg, and although he was able to play against Middlesbrough last week, the problem has persisted over the last week and Shaqiri needs a late fitness test to determine his status for the game.
Two other important Stoke players have been ruled out: full-back Glen Johnson was unable to recover in time for a quadricep problem and cannot face City, as well as starting goalkeeper Jack Butland, still nursing a broken ankle.
Predicted Stoke XI (4-2-3-1):
Given | Bardsley, Wollschied, Shawcross, Pieters | Whelan, Imbula | Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic | Diouf