Stoke City-Manchester City Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)

Manchester City delivered a statement of intent last weekend. Now they will want to kick on.

The defending Premier League Champions cruised past title rivals Liverpool with a 3-1 win on Monday evening, with Stevan Jovetic scoring twice, and City will be looking to build on that win with another three points against Stoke City at the Etihad on Saturday.

Only goal difference is keeping City from the top of the table after two games, and manager Manuel Pellegrini believes he has the strongest group of players in the English top-flight.

"Here in the Premier League you always have four or five strong teams that can win the title and if we want to continue winning titles, of course, we must improve," said Pellegrini in his pre-match press conference. "But I always say my players are the best players in the Premier League and we have the strongest squad, not only attackers but also defending, and in the whole squad. Other teams also have strong squads but if you are analysing the players I prefer mine."

City are overwhelming favourites to win, but goals have been at a premium between these teams in recent times. Yaya Toure's strike in last season's corresponding fixture was the only goal over two league meetings last season.

Stoke have failed to score in their last four games against City - their drought in league play is at 345 minutes - and have managed just two in the last nine against the Citizens. They have found the net just once in their opening two games of this season - in a 1-1 draw with Hull City last weekend.

However, the Potters did hit for three in a win over League Two side Portsmouth in the League Cup on Wednesday, and manager Mark Hughes is hoping his players will take heart from that display.

"It's important to be in a confident mood and we can go to Manchester City on the back of a good victory," said Hughes. "Yes, it was in the cup and it was against lesser opposition, but we still recorded the win, and won the game in a good manner."

Hughes has been trying to introduce a more attacking style at Stoke, and this season has seen plenty of flair players on show, with Stephen Ireland, Peter Odemwingie, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic all involved. However, Ireland and Bojan are both doubtful due to rib injuries, and Hughes may instead opt to crowd the midfield to deal with City's host of attacking players.

Jovetic has been the star turn for City in the opening games of the season, forming an impressive understanding with David Silva and Samir Nasri in behind striker Edin Dzeko. Sergio Aguero is being eased back to full fitness following his injury problems, but the Uruguayan still produced goals against both Newcastle and Liverpool after entering as a substitute.

Midfielder Fernandinho is also being given time to find his feet again after his torrid time with the Brazil national team in the summer, but new addition Fernando has proved an excellent replacement in the starting eleven - perfectly shielding the defence and freeing Yaya Toure to play higher up the pitch.

New centre-back Eliaquim Mangala may be in line to make his first appearance for City on Saturday following a £32m transfer from Porto earlier this month.

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