Stoke V Man City at Britannia Stadium : Match Preview

15 September 2012 08:33
Stoke V Man City - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Pulis not putting pressure on Owen Stoke boss Tony Pulis is mindful of putting too much pressure on new signing Michael Owen and has stressed the former England star is simply one of several options now at his disposal in attack.

The Potters completed the capture of Owen, who had been a free agent after his release over the summer by Manchester United, last week on a one-year deal and he could be set for his debut in tomorrow's Barclays Premier League visit of Manchester City.

The 32-year-old striker, dogged by a catalogue of injury problems throughout his career, says he feels in good enough condition to feature and he will be assessed by Pulis ahead of kick-off. While fitness is likely be a key factor in how much game time Owen gets at Stoke, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest names ever to join the Staffordshire club and there will be a considerable sense of anticipation among Potters fans about what he might deliver.

The weight of expectation on the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle frontman is something Pulis wants to try to ease, and the manager has been keen to emphasise that Owen is very much part of a group of forwards in his squad. "I think by bringing Michael in now, we have got different options," Pulis said. "We'll see how it goes - I don't want to put too much pressure on him. "I just want him to come and enjoy his football and get fit and sharp again at a club where he knows if he plays well, he will have an opportunity."

Steven Nzonzi and Maurice Edu could also make their first appearances for the Staffordshire club. Fellow midfielder and transfer deadline day arrival Charlie Adam may get a first start after making his bow as a substitute in the 2-2 draw at Wigan on September 1. Winger Matthew Etherington and defender Andy Wilkinson, recently injured with a hamstring problem and concussion respectively, could be back in the team, but midfielder Jamie Ness (groin) will not be available.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini is pleased to be getting his side's trip to Stoke out of the way early this season.

City dropped what might have proved two vital points in their ultimately successful title bid when they last visited the Britannia Stadium in the Barclays Premier League in March. That game came amid a difficult spell for City in which their championship hopes seemed to have been lost as they fell eight points behind Manchester United.

Yet after staging a dramatic recovery in the closing weeks of the season to pip United on goal difference, their fightback from 1-0 down to secure a point at Stoke was seen in a different light. Nevertheless, Mancini is glad the notoriously tricky trip is coming when there is less pressure and, such is the anticipated difficulty, next week's mouth-watering clash against Real Madrid is at the back of his mind.

Mancini said: "We need to think only about Stoke because we never win there - it is a difficult pitch - but it is better we have this game now than the end, like last year." City have not won at Stoke since both clubs were in the third tier in 1999 and have never triumphed at the Britannia Stadium. Six months ago they were grateful for a Yaya Toure equaliser after Peter Crouch had struck with a stunning long-range volley.

Mancini said: "Stoke is one of the worst pitches [grounds] in the Premier League because it is very difficult to play there. They are a strong team. "For us, it is very difficult, but not only for us, for all the teams. It is important we try to play football like we do. "I think that they have good players because this year they have changed, they have brought in good players. "They are very strong, they are tall, but with this kind of football they stay always in the Premier League. "For them, this is important. They have good players with experience. "We have experience for this, all our players know this game, and we know it will be a tough game."

Striker Sergio Aguero could return from a knee injury, while fellow forward Mario Balotelli is clear to play after undergoing minor eye surgery during the international break. Midfielder Gareth Barry (abdominal) is not yet fully fit and defender Micah Richards (ankle) remains sidelined. Defenders Maicon and Matija Nastastic, midfielder Javi Garcia and winger Scott Sinclair - all deadline-day signings last month - could play some part.

Source: PA

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