Manchester City fans should remember 2012 as their annus mirabilis, when years of toil in the shadows of neighbours United were finally ended with a magnificent, unforgettable final-day Premier League title triumph.
But football supporters and owners tend to have short memories these days (looking at you, Roman) and the reigning champions’ somewhat stuttering end to the calendar year has put Roberto Mancini under a bit of pressure.
Having needed a 93rd-minute winner to get past bottom club Reading in their final home game of 2012, they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland before barely scraping past Norwich City in a 4-3 thriller at the weekend.
And any plans to banish those memories with a big win to start 2013 are likely to be stymied by facing the division’s best defence in Stoke City.
Tony Pulis’ team have turned that resilience into five wins and five draws over the past ten games and look generous at 21/2 to pull off the upset at the Etihad, with the home side 7/25 favourites and the draw 4/1.
With both teams generally keeping it tight, other than their combined 13-goal weekend match-ups, a 25th game featuring either City or Stoke with under 2.5 total goals looks good value at 11/10.
That’s also been a recurring theme in recent matches between City and Stoke, with both contests in 2012 seeing the points shared following 1-1 draws.
A repeat scoreline would see new customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin secure a hangover-curing £190.
However, both those games took place away from City’s home fortress, where they have lost just twice in two seasons and picked up two 3-0 victories over Stoke in their last two visits.
Key to those successes have been early goals, with Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez first-half openers in those games setting City en route to easy victories and a City win by 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0 is 27/20.
Mancini will be equally keen for his Argentine duo to end a barren run of just four goals between them in the past nine games and Aguero and Tevez are both 13/4 to break the deadlock.
Should City manage to break down Stoke’s usually stubborn defence before the break, then they will fancy their chances of turning that into three points for eighth time in the league this season at 18/25.
Yet the home team’s form leads me to believe this will be much tighter than the Potters’ past trips to the Etihad and I’m sticking with City to need another late winner by backing draw/City in the half-time/full-time market at 16/5.