Stoke City-Manchester City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Manchester City heeded their manager's call for goals. Now they try to sustain that momentum into the new year Tuesday when they host Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium.
Roberto Mancini blistered his side following its surprising 1-0 loss to Sunderland on Boxing Day, saying they were "too soft in attack, too soft when we have chances, too soft when we shoot.'' Edin Dzeko took those criticisms to heart Saturday, setting the tone with two goals in the first five minutes of the match as City (12-6-2) laboured to a 4-3 victory at Norwich City.
The victory allowed the reigning Premier League champions to stay seven points back of archrivals Manchester United for the lead and pleased Mancini - for now at least.
"The guys played very well,'' Mancini said. ``It was like at Sunderland but this time we scored. Today we showed we are there for the title.''
The news wasn't all good, though, as Manchester City will play this match without midfielder Samir Nasri, who was given a red card late in the first half for an apparent head butt of Sebastian Bassong and is suspended. James Milner, who appeared as a substitute in the second half, could possibly enter Mancini's starting XI.
Dzeko has a team-high eight goals in league play despite starting just six matches. He had scored only one goal in his previous five appearances as a first-choice striker for Mancini this season. Sergio Aguero, who contributed a goal and an assist Saturday, has not found the back of the net in his last three matches at home.
Stoke City (6-11-3) extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches with a lively 3-3 draw versus Southampton on Saturday, rallying from a two-goal deficit in the final 23 minutes. Matthew Upson pulled the Potters within one, and substitute Cameron Jerome shook off a disallowed goal with a blast from 25 yards in the 90th minute as Stoke stole a point despite being a man down for the final 19 minutes, following Steven Nzonzi's red card for a heavy challenge on Southampton midfielder Jack Cork.
"At no point in time did we ever think that we were going to lose the game today," striker Kenwyne Jones told the team's official website. "It was just a matter of us coming out in the second half and getting the first goal, and then if we did that, going on to grab the second goal.
The Potters have found their stride offensively, scoring six goals in their last two matches after needing the previous seven matches to equal that total. Still, Stoke's 21 goals are the fewest of any team in the top half of the table.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at Britannia Stadium on Sept. 15, with Peter Crouch's goal in the 15th minute cancelled out by Javi Garcia's marker in the 35th. City have claimed at least one point in the last seven matches (4-3-0) between the teams and won all four top-flight matches at the Etihad by a combined 11-0 scoreline.