Manchester City are back in Premier League action this Saturday with a home game against Stoke City at the Etihad. The Blues lead the league thanks to a superior goal differential over Manchester United, and beating the Potters will help strengthen City’s position at the top of the table.
Stoke have some good players and Mark Hughes always comes to the Etihad looking to prove a point against the club that sacked him back in 2009 to bring in Roberto Mancini, so this promises to be a tough one for the Blues.
Let’s take a look at a few players from both sides who could have a big impact on the game.
The young French center-back joined Stoke on loan from Chelsea and has gone straight into the starting lineup, and a season with the Potters could go a long way in helping Zouma completely heal from a horrific knee injury he suffered last year and get into shape before returning to Chelsea.
Zouma has all the attributes to be a great Premier League defender: he’s tall, he’s strong, he’s fast, he wins duels, he’s good in the air, and he’s good with his feet. He just needs playing time, and that’s what he’s got at Stoke. If they get a good result at the Etihad, it’ll be party because of Zouma’s great defensive contributions.
Another young Premier League defender who’s played very well this season is John Stones. The Englishman is always playing under immense pressure and unrealistic expectations, and after a tough debut season he’s shown some great improvement so far.
In fact, Stones has played so well that the Blues haven’t missed Vincent Kompany yet, and Stones’ ability to play from the back is essential to Pep Guardiola’s system. City kept clean sheets in six of their seven matches in September, and it’s no coincidence that Stones started all six. If he starts against Stoke, we could be looking at another strong performance from him and another clean sheet for the team.
The former Bayern Munich star is without a doubt the creative spark of this team, and with the departure of Marko Arnautovic in the summer Shaqiri has been given the responsibility of basically doing everything himself. With a goal and two assists in seven appearances, the Swiss international has certainly done his part.
Shaqiri usually plays on the right wing, although in Stoke’s new 3-4-3 formation he has the freedom to roam around the attack. That means he can cause problems in many areas of the pitch, and the entire City defense will need to watch him carefully for 90 minutes.
Sané is certainly enjoying the best form of his young career at the start of this season, with five goals and two assists in 10 appearances in all competitions. Even though Pep likes to rotate his team, it’s been hard to keep Sané off the starting lineup lately, and he’ll certainly be involved against Stoke.
Leroy is slowly but surely becoming one of the best wingers in the world even though he’s only 21 years old, and this season he’s also added goals to his game. He’s still a nightmare when receiving the ball near the touchline and running at defenders, but he can now be around the box and score goals, and that’s a huge plus for him and for City. If the Blues beat Stoke, be certain that Sané will have something to do with the win.