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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Man City to rely on superior attack to beat Stoke

But Potters can find the net

Raheem Sterling is one of Manchester City's many attacking threats
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 8.00pm Wednesday

Chelsea's 2-1 victory at West Ham on Monday was another blow to the Premier League chasing pack but Manchester City can move to within eight points of the leaders by defeating Stoke at the Etihad.

The games are coming thick and fast for City, who travel to Middlesbrough for an FA Cup quarter-final tie on Saturday and then to Monaco for next Wednesday's Champions League round-of-16 second leg.

However, Pep Guardiola has always resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes for league fixtures and is likely to leave nothing to chance for a match City must win to keep their slim title hopes alive.

City have won four league matches in succession since dominating a 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham last month.

But the battle for Champions League places is wide open and City must be careful because after the Stoke game their next three league fixtures are at home to Liverpool, away to Arsenal and away to Chelsea.

Stoke were 1-0 winners at the Etihad in August 2014 but nothing they have done this season would suggest they are capable of a repeat performance.

The Potters have lost all of their six matches against the top five and all of their nine league victories have come against teams outside the top 11.

They were demolished 4-0 at Tottenham on their last road trip and must be fearful of a similar outcome against arguably the finest attacking force in the division.

Defensively they were poor against Spurs but Hughes was more concerned with the lack of competitive spirit which allowed the home side to dictate far too easily.

His team have gone down fighting in other big games - taking the lead in a 3-1 loss at Arsenal and twice equalising in a 4-2 loss at Chelsea - and Hughes will be urging a more positive display than was the case at White Hart Lane.

Stoke's top league scorer is midfielder and penalty-taker Joe Allen with six goals but Austrian attacker Marko Arnautovic will be feeling confident after his two goals in Saturday's 2-0 win at home to Middlesbrough and Peter Crouch is always a threat in the air.

They should also be aware that City are far from rock-solid at the back.

The Citizens have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 home games (a 2-0 triumph at home to Watford) and their lack of defensive cohesion is likely to continue while Guardiola continues to chop and change his back four.

City haven't played with the same back four for two consecutive games since a 4-0 defeat at Everton in January and their approach is in stark contrast to that of Chelsea, whose preferred rearguard seems set in stone.

They rely heavily on their attacking players to get them out of trouble and may do likewise against the Potters, who can get on the scoresheet but are unlikely to collect any points.

Man City to win and both teams to score
1pt 7-4 Betfair

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Team news
Man City
Gabriel Jesus is out long-term and Vincent Kompany (muscle strain) misses out.

Xherdan Shaqiri (calf) returns to the squad but Bruno Martins Indi (knee), Marko Arnautovic (illness) and Glen Johnson (shoulder) are doubts. Wilfried Bony is ineligible.

Key stat
Manchester City have kept one clean sheet in their last 13 home matches

The Citizens have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 home games (a 2-0 triumph at home to Watford)
E.W. Terms
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