Two months ago, it was hell for Manchester City. A 4-0 loss to Everton and successive bad performances had everyone questioning Pep Guardiola, and it seemed like the Catalan's experiment had failed. But football changes very quickly, and now we're looking at one of the most in-form teams in Europe.
City haven't lost since that awful Sunday afternoon at Goodison Park, have advanced through two rounds of the FA Cup, are climbing their way back to the top of the Premier League table, and won the most memorable Champions League match of the season until now. Guardiola found a system that works with and without the ball, made some big personnel decisions that have paid off, and now everything looks really positive.
The schedule is insane until the end of the season if City keep moving on in all competitions, and the games come fast: just after beating Sunderland last Sunday, the Sky Blues already have to face Stoke City on Wednesday. But this one will take place at the Etihad, and City can reach 10 games without a loss and continue their hot streak at the most important moment of the season.
City can also move back to second place in the table, just eight points behind leaders Chelsea with a trip to Stamford Bridge still to come. The Premier League may already be decided, but we never know. Who would have thought City would be this good two months ago?
Date/Time: Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 8pm BST (UK), 3pm EST, 12pm PST (USA), 1:30am IST (India, Thursday)
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Television: Sky Sports 1 (UK), NBCSN (USA), SuperSport 6 (Nigeria), Star Sports Select HD2 (India), elsewhere
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
No injuries! apart from Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus, who are already starting to progress towards their return last season, everybody else is healthy and ready to go. Thanks to the craziness of the schedule, Guardiola has rotated the squad quietly and smartly, and every lineup features a strong group of players able to lead the team to a win. A few players just won't be dropped, though: Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling are destroying defenses in England and Europe, and they're young enough to play all the time and never get tired.
Expect a similar team to the one that beat Sunderland with a few changes here and there, but a strong team nonetheless. The plan is the same: have the ball, play out from the back, score lots of goals. It has been working quite well lately.
Man City: Caballero; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy; De Bruyne, Touré, Silva; Sterling, Agüero, Sané
Stoke: Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Cameron, Whelan; Arnautovic, Allen, Sobhi; Crouch
Back to second place, more confidence for the games ahead. 4-1 City.