City in search of Premier pick-up

21 February 2014 01:16

Manchester City will try to get their Premier League title challenge back on track against Stoke on Saturday after a midweek defeat by Barcelona left their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.

The fall-out from Tuesday's 2-0 home loss to the Spanish giants in the first leg of a last 16 tie continued Thursday when UEFA announced it was investigating City manager Manuel Pellegrini's post-match comments.

UEFA, European football's governing body, said it would look closely at Pellegrini's comments before deciding whether to charge the Chilean over his criticism of Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson.

After a fortnight away from league action, City will be desperate to return to winning ways in English top-flight football following their recent 1-0 defeat by title rivals Chelsea and goalless draw at struggling Norwich, albeit they got some revenge by subsequently knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

After the home game against Stoke, who have lost each of their five Premier League visits to the Etihad Stadium, conceding 14 goals and not managing a single one in reply, City have the League Cup final against Sunderland, before an FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan and the return game against Barcelona.

For the Stoke match they are set to have Fernandinho, who came through the Barcelona match after more than two weeks out with a thigh problem.

The Brazilian midfielder, who refused to give up on City's chances of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, said he felt ready for the final three months of the season.

"I am feeling good and I feel nothing with the injury. I tried to do my job and I'm happy after two weeks off to come back in a big game, just very disappointed with the result.

"As far as my performance against Barcelona goes I was happy. You have to go there with confidence and I'm sure our players and staff will prepare well to go there and try to beat them and get to the next stage."

Pellegrini will hope captain Vincent Kompany is available against Stoke after appearing to suffer a muscle injury in a challenge with Lionel Messi on Tuesday, while Spain striker Alvaro Negredo started against Barcelona after his recent shoulder problem.

Defender Matija Nastasic will be doubtful again with a knee problem and Sergio Aguero is targeting the Sunderland match for his return from a hamstring injury.

"Feeling very good about my last week of recovery work. If I keep it up next week I'll train with the team,"! Argentina striker Aguero tweeted.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes is under no illusions as to the size of the task against his former club, especially at the Etihad Stadium.

"They've been absolutely outstanding at home, averaged a significant amount of goals as well," said Hughes.

"It's a huge task but we've beaten Chelsea and Man United this season and drew with City as well. We were pleased with our performance at the Britannia.

"At home they are quite formidable so we need to be at our best. We need to stay in the game and then we'll see who goes."

The former Manchester United and Wales striker added: "They (City) have a huge squad with great quality.

"Who will they pick on the day, that's the conundrum because they have so many options? It's difficult to give my guys a heads-up in terms of personnel.

"You know their style of play will remain the same and you can cater for that, but in terms of personnel it's difficult."

Stoke will be without Oussama Assaidi for six weeks after the winger damaged knee ligaments while training during the club's warm-weather break in Dubai.

Source: AFP