Stoke City have been nothing but a revelation under Tony Pulis. They have successfully embarked on a four season run in the Premier League and have actually scaled newer heights this season with a top 10 finish a likely possibility. And with a chance to bagging the prestigious FA Cup, it can be the most memorable year for the Potters. A direct approach, physical style of play and heavily reliant on set pieces, these traits have mostly been associated with clubs fighting for survival but Pulis has successfully managed to induce an attacking approach whenever needed. And his players have wholeheartedly responded to their manager’s wishes. And a 5-0 drubbing of high fancied Bolton in the semis proved a perfect fillup to the fact that Stoke have certainly shown a complete brand of football this season.
Key Men to Watch Out for:
1) Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth: Ryan Shawcross has come a long way from becoming the most hated figure for a clumsy tackle on Ramsey to becoming one of the central figures at the heart of defence for Stoke. He and Robert Huth have formed a great partnership at the heart of defence. Up against them are the terrifying trio of Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko, all giants in terms of physical abilities. Tevez is still a concern but the central duo needs to pull up their socks today. Robert Huth is still doubtful but is expected to start.
2) Jermaine Pennant: A former Arsenal and Birmingham winger, he is expected to play a pivotal role as he did against Arsenal. Form has been on his side and Potters faithful expects him to deliver when it matters most.
3) Matthew Etherington: He has been one of most low key left wing players in BPL. A former West Ham player his runs through the flanks and crosses have always been a threat to rival teams.
4) John Walters: A revelation in the later stages, he has scored 5 goals in his last eight games. Along with Kenwyn Jones he can be a terrific combination.
5) Long Throws from Rory Delap: Although he has been largely subdued, thanks to the careful defending by teams from his long throws, yet a single projectile from the sidelines is enough to make the difference.
Manchester City have always had it coming. A shrewd yet defensive manager, a rich set of players and a feeling of always being subdued, all these things combined to give meaning to the Arab money. And they stand on the brink of creating history tonight. Although Man United might win the Premier League and subdue the celebrations, yet Manchester City have been nothing but equals to Manchester United.
Key Men to Watch Out For:
1) David Silva: This man has been at the centre of every attacking move of the Citizens. A vastly talented player and surely one of the best performers this season, Stoke’s success would lie on how they tackle this mercurial winger. His range of passing and goal scoring threat make him one of the most effective weapons City have.
2) Balotelli, Dzeko and tevez: It is still a doubt as to whether Mancini will start with Tevez upfront but its highly likely all three of them would get an opportunity to bask under the sun today. And any combination among them is surely going to run shivers down the spine of Stoke defence.
3) City Defence and Joe Hart: As miser as possible the City defence have been highly impervious this season and coupled with Joe Hart’s goalkeeping, it has been an excellent season for them. Vincent Kompany, already voted as the best player of Manchester City this season, he would have to be on his toes this Saturday.
Prediction: A cagey affair is likely to be on the cards and bookmakers have already made Manchester City their favourites to lift the FA Cup. But I have this uncanny feeling that only one half of Manchester United would celebrate today and that would be the red side of it.
Stoke 1-0 Manchester City