The two 2011 FA Cup finalists meet again on Saturday (12.45pm GMT, live on ITV) when Stoke City face Man City in the Fourth Round of this year’s competition.
This is the third time the clubs have met in the FA Cup in the last four years, with Stoke winning a Fifth Round replay in 2010 before City inflicted final defeat on the Potters in 2011.
Stoke enjoyed a decent cup run last season, reaching the quarter final before losing narrowly to Liverpool, but laboured in dispatching high-flying Championship side Crystal Palace in this year’s Third Round, eventually emerging triumphant in extra time of the replay.
The Potters have enjoyed a solid Premier League campaign to date and are currently 10th in the table with 29 points from six wins, 11 draws and six defeats.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis (pictured) is an advocate of direct, long-ball football, and his side have seldom strayed from that template in the six years following his return to the club in 2006.
His approach has brought promotion, Premier League consolidation and a FA Cup final appearance to the Potteries, so it is difficult to make a strong case for a change of tact.
His side is built around a phalanx of tall, well-built defenders who defend rigidly and physically, sitting deep and fouling anyone who threatens to pierce them. Stoke lead the Premier League aggression table with 45 bookings and three red cards to date, but can also boast the fourth-best defensive record in the division.
Stoke’s defensive solidity has, however, come under question in recent weeks. The Potters have conceded 11 goals in their last three matches, coinciding with three consecutive defeats, including a 4-0 loss to Chelsea that was Stoke’s first home defeat this season.
The most recent defeat came last weekend in a 3-1 reverse away to Swansea City, a match in which Stoke were out-passed and out-classed in a manner reminiscent of the 3-0 drubbing Manchester City handed out to them when the two clubs met at the Etihad on New Year’s Day.
That victory was one of four consecutive Premier League successes for City, who have been imperious in recent weeks and are now just five points shy of United at the top of the table with 51 points from 15 wins, six draws and two defeats.
The Citizens warmed up for their trip to the Potteries with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Fulham last weekend. David Silva has often struggled to match the heights of his performances last season, but has been very much on song in recent weeks and scored two expertly taken goals, the second after some intricate build up play, to take City to victory.
Silva has been particularly effective in combination with the hard-running James Milner, who provides a different dimension to City’s play than the more static Samir Nasri. Milner has his detractors and there are certainly limitations to his game, but it is no coincidence that City’s recent good form has been concurrent with his return to the starting eleven.
Roberto Mancini’s men have also been excellent defensively in recent weeks. They have recorded three successive clean sheets in the Premier League and have the best defensive record in the division with just 19 conceded in their 23 matches to date.
City won last season’s Premier League title by joining a strong, solid defence to a vibrant, incisive attack. There have recently been signs that Mancini has again managed to find that balance, even with Yaya Toure, the man who often connected those two disparate elements, away on Africa Cup of Nations duty.
The Citizens cruised into the Fourth Round of the FA Cup by defeating Championship side Watford 3-0 at the Etihad, a fairly strong line-up taking a two goal advantage into the break and adding a third in second half stoppage time when Portuguese youngster Marcos Lopes marked his debut with a goal.
Stoke v Man City Betting Tips
With their European campaign brought to a premature end prior to Christmas, City can afford to push for a domestic double and we expect them to put out a strong side on Saturday.
Stoke, though, are tough opponents at the Britannia Stadium having recorded five wins, five draws and just one defeat there in league play so far this season and will certainly not make things easy for the Citizens.
The last four league encounters between these sides in Stoke have finished 1-1 and we would not be at all surprised to see the spoils shared once again on Saturday.