After two grueling weeks of international football, Manchester City are finally back in action with a home Premier League match against Stoke City, and this could be a big opportunity for the Blues to establish themselves as the Premier League leaders.
But facing Stoke is no easy task: the Potters already beat Arsenal and took points from Manchester United this season, and Mark Hughes always loves to face City at the Etihad and try to prove a point.
This will be a tough match, and here are the two teams we’re likely to see starting on Saturday:
Even though the Napoli game is on Tuesday, Pep Guardiola is likely to field a very strong lineup against Stoke. He spoke highly of the Potters in his pre-match press conference, and Pep knows how important the win is to keep the momentum ahead of the huge European match coming up.
We are likely to see a very similar team to the one that dominated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with only one probable alteration: Danilo Luiz in place of Fabian Delph. Delph decided to withdraw from the England squad with an injury, but he looks fine. Just to be sure, though, especially with Delph’s injury problems since joining the Blues, it’s a good idea to rest him in this one and start Danilo at left-back.
The front six of Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus picks itself out at the moment, though Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva are ready to start if called upon. Sergio Agüero is recovered from his broken ribs and will be available for selection, but he’ll be rested for Napoli and start on the bench in this one.
Predicted XI: Éderson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sané
Mark Hughes has used a 3-4-3 formation since preseason, and this has become Stoke’s default formation in the early stages of this season. The arrivals of Kurt Zouma and Kevin Wimmer gave Huges strong defenders who complement Geoff Cameron really well at the back, and that allows Erik Pieters on the left and Mame Biram Diouf on the right to be very attacking wing-backs, which then allows Xherdan Shaqiri to move freely on the pitch and make Stoke a dangerous side on the break.
There are a few injury problems in midfield right now, and PSG loanee Jesé Rodríguez isn’t expected to play due to personal issues. Despite that, Stoke have a good team and the new system has made them better, so they can definitely cause City problems this weekend.
Predicted XI: Butland; Zouma, Cameron, Wimmer; Diouf, Fletcher, Adam, Pieters; Shaqiri, Berahino, Choupo-Moting
Man City: Éderson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sané
Stoke: Butland; Edwards, Zouma, Wimmer, Pieters; Cameron, Fletcher; Diouf, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Jesé