A trip to the Britannia Stadium is nobody’s favourite destination and that adage certainly rings true for Manchester City.
Sheikh Mansour’s oil money may have conquered the Premier League but since millions of petro-dollars were pumped into rising the Blue Moon, they’ve never managed to win at Stoke City.
The tale of the tape reads six games, four draws and two defeats for the Mancunians in these parts and they’ll need to improve on that record if they’re to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup at the first time of asking.
On current form, Roberto Mancini’s men are the side looking most ready and able to secure a passage through to the next stage, but this being the cup – and at one of the Citizens’ least productive venues – there may be a few twists to the plot.
Since the turn of the year, the champions have clocked up five wins on the bounce and have not conceded in their last four.
By contrast, Stoke have begun their traditional second half of the season slump and have won just two of the last ten in all competitions – with one of those being an extra-time replay win over Crystal Palace in the previous round.
Unsurprisingly, bwin’s 3Way football betting market prices it up with the visitors as 7/10 favourites, the draw 5/2 and Stoke outsiders at 15/4 – but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Both of these two should be making the FA Cup a priority. Stoke are loitering in no man’s land in the league – safe from relegation but equidistant from a European slot – and this competition offers a chance of glory.
Similarly, City have flopped on the continent and trail neighbours United by five points at the head of the Premier League, so a side constructed for such exorbitant sums should have designs on at least one piece of silverware.
Mancini takes his mob to Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday to resume league duties and with his main priority presumably still being retaining the title, he may choose to once again shuffle his pack.
However, Stoke host Wigan Athletic on the same night and out of the two, Saturday’s cup clash should merit more serious consideration for Tony Pulis and that could swing things their way.
Even if you don’t fancy Stoke to win outright, they’re 21/20 to avoid defeat and that could be the way to go considering the last five meetings between these two at the Britannia have ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Like the bookies, I’m not expecting many goals, which is why it’s only 17/50 there will be under 3.5 strikes in the game and if that goes to plan, the draw looks good value.
The recurring 1-1 theme makes that score at 11/2 worth a look and if you do think a replay will be required, then you can get a price of 15/4 on a score draw (lead-draw in the run of play market).
But familiarity does breed contempt and if there is plenty of action then there are some good prices about. Stoke are 13/5 to score over 1.5 goals, with City 3/4 to do likewise.
Out of the two, City have the undoubted class and you can get them at 33/20 to score in both halves and 29/20 to win with under 3.5 goals in the game.
At present, City are 4/1 favourites alongside Chelsea and Manchester United to go on and lift the cup in May and if you like the sound of that, then jump on now as that price will only get shorter.