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Talking Points: City to maintain devastating form?

TALKING POINTS: Things to watch in the lunchtime kick-off

TALKING POINTS: Things to watch in the lunchtime kick-off

Following that rampant 5-0 win over Steaua Bucharest, City return to domestic action in the Saturday lunchtime game against Stoke City.

It promises to be another intriguing spectacle – here’s Club Journalist @markbooth_mcfc with five things to look out for in our third competitive game of the campaign…

1 Momentum

City were devastating in Romania on Tuesday night, tearing Steaua Bucharest to shreds with an awesome display of attacking football to put at least one foot (and five toes of the other) in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

However, this next test promises to have a tone that’s more in keeping with last weekend’s war of attrition against Sunderland as the Blues return to domestic action.

Stoke were held to a draw in their first Premier League fixture of the season away at Alvaro Negredo’s Middlesbrough but their stadium is sure to be rocking for their home opener against Guardiola’s men.

With a whole week to prepare for this showdown and an extra peek at Pep’s gameplan in midweek, Mark Hughes will be eager to mastermind a high profile, first victory of the season, even if he’s without key man Xherdan Shaqiri, who is a doubt through injury.

2 Selection

Judging by Pep Guardiola’s words in his pre-match press conference, there won’t be wholesale changes to the City XI for our first away Premier League game of the season.

Guardiola expressed the importance of keeping some continuity in his line-up, as well as the system, because his players are still in the process of absorbing the intricacies of his gameplan.

He told journalists: “It’s not time to change a lot because I don’t want to confuse my players but I have to say, I am impressed the most that they are so intelligent.

“The way we played in Bucharest was a high, high level. We did it so quickly. That’s because of the intelligence and quality of the players.”

3 The old clichés

This might be the season where the old Stoke away clichés is finally retired…

No, not because a visit to the Potters is any less fearsome in 2016/17 but because the stadium has a new sponsor which doesn’t quite scan so well as the old one for the “cold, wet night at the…” line.

Guardiola smiled knowingly when CityTV’s Nicola McCarthy mentioned this time-honoured line in his Steaua post-match interview and this will be exactly the kind of game that brought City’s new manager to England.

English stadiums have a reputation across Europe for their unique atmospheres and nowhere is it louder and more vociferous than at Stoke.

4 The Beaufort Scale

Not making excuses, promise we’re not, as City were soundly beaten in 2015/16, *but*… the wind certainly played a decisive role in last season’s fixture between these two teams.

There are few windier grounds in the UK for starters, but on that day in December last year it was a noticeable factor, with the ball flying around the pitch like a plastic playground flyer, throwing City out of their attacking rhythm.

The Beaufort scale forecast, used by meteorologists to measure winds, indicates there will be a “moderate breeze” on Saturday, as opposed to the “moderate gale” endured in 2015, so hopefully Pep’s men will not be fighting the elements, as well as a very talented Stoke City, this time around.

Pep is relaxed either way and won’t use the elements as an excuse if his side fail to get the result they want.

He said: ““We are going to try to fight for the title so we are going to try to adapt. We’re not going to complain that the pitch isn’t good. It’s 11 v 11 on the pitch. It’s my first time in my life at Stoke City and so, let’s go!”

5 Stoke Hoodoo dead?

City thought they had finally cracked the Stoke away curse in February 2015 when we won 4-1 but last season’s 2-0 defeat went some way towards denting that belief.

That victory in 2015 is our only previous Premier League win at Stoke – we’ve drawn five and lost two of the other seven games we’ve played there and we’ve lost two of our last four against them – this after a run of one defeat in the previous 12.

Still, there is reason for optimism given Sergio Aguero’s recent form (ten goals in his last nine games) and his record against Stoke (six in six), as well as City's Romanian romp.

We can’t wait for this one!

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