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Talking Points: Has the Stoke hex been lifted?



City return to Premier League action on Saturday lunchtime with a tricky clash away at 12th place Stoke City.

Did our 4-1 win there last season lift the Britannia Stadium curse? Is City’s injury crisis over or understated? How do the Blues fare in lunchtime kick-offs?

Read on to find out…

Has the Britannia Stadium curse lifted?

To borrow and adapt the time-honoured cliché: Can City do it on a cold, (probably) wet afternoon at the Britannia Stadium?

Historically, this is one of our bogey grounds, a stadium that has chewed us up and spat us out on more occasions than one can care to remember in recent years.

In fact, we’ve won just one of seven games against the Potters at the Britannia *BUT* that victory was on our most recent visit.

Was the hex finally broken by that emphatic 4-1 win in February or will that prove to the anomaly and the exception to this bleakest of rules?

Injury crisis: Fact or fiction?

Injuries have been a recurring theme in the media this season, with many of the top clubs suffering from a number of absences as a consequence of taking part in so many games in a variety of competitions.

A certain other team's injury record has been a particularly hot topic but when you actually look at the numbers, City have had far more players out in the opening 14 games of the season.

City have lost players to lay-offs for an accumulative 546 days this season, suffering 35 different injuries which is a league-high.

It's been a frustrating start to the season on that front and so all ears will be trained on Manuel Pellegrini’s press conference at 12.45pm on Friday to discover if City will be able to call upon the services of Kun Aguero and Joe Hart after their latest knocks.

A different Stoke…

Mark Hughes pledged to transform Stoke’s image from the division’s tough-tackling rogues to a more neutral-friendly, aesthetically-pleasing outfit.

He’s been good to his word – the Potters now have more UEFA Champions League winners on their books than City possess and they’re playing in a more progressive, attractive style which is gaining them points, as well as admirers.

Following a few teething troubles in the early weeks of the season, Stoke have won five and drawn two of their last nine games and have averaged 326 accurate passes a game with a 79% accuracy – their highest in Premier League history.

Lunch bunch…

We informed you yesterday how formidable City have been in the month of December over recent seasons, but how do we fare in lunchtime kick-offs?

Since Manuel Pellegrini took charge for the 2013/14 season, we’ve played 11 Premier League games at 12.45pm and have won eight, drawn won and lost two.

That said, we lost our only early game so far this season – that heavy 4-1 defeat to Spurs, so let’s hope we can get back to winning ways in our next lunchtime assignment.

Merlin’s Premier League return…

Tuesday night heralded the return of the maestro and how he’s been missed…

David Silva ran the game against Hull, dictating the angles and the speed of City’s approach, his slow-slow-quick prods and pries in the attacking third creating the gaps which the home side exploited time and again.

Saturday’s showdown with Stoke should mark his first Premier League appearance for eight weeks and the division as a whole will be better for having his mesmeric talents back on show.

No player this season has created more goals per minute than David – he’s averaging an assist every 100 minutes.

Assists per min top five (Premier League)

  1. David Silva – 100
  2. Leonard Ulloa 105
  3. Gerard Deulofeu – 107
  4. Mesut Ozil – 157
  5. Kevin De Bruyne - 186

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