Nigel de Jong has warned his team-mates that the first 15 minutes of the Premier League clash at Stoke tonight will be critical if City are to leave with all three points.
The Dutch international admits that he is no admirer of the Potters’ direct style - but he fully understands why they play the way they do.
De Jong said: "I like the ball played along the ground a lot, but I think we can expect a lot of long balls against Stoke, so you have to be prepared for the second ball and knock-downs.
“It’s going to be a battle and it’s probably not the best pitch in the league to play football on at the moment, but we know Stoke away is going to be hard whenever you take them on.
“I played in last season’s 1-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium and it was only my second match for the club – it was an interesting welcome to the English league if I’m honest!
We know what to expect - their fans make a lot of noise and are like a twelfth man, so it won’t be easy
The former Hamburg star added: “In Germany and Holland all the teams try and play football - here you still find teams who play kick and rush. But they are doing what they feel they have to in order to survive in this league.
“Of course, the first ten or 15 minutes of every game are crucial because if you win those battles during that period you will set the tone for the entire 90 minutes.
“This game will be no different and it’s up to us to set the tone in the opening exchanges because if they are winning them, it’s going to be a very difficult game.
"Everyone has to have the same fighting spirit - we have to be up for the battle because Stoke will not just hand over the three points, we’ll have to earn them from start to finish.”