Man City: LLDDWW
Kick Off: 12.30, 20/08/2016
TV: Sky Sports 1
After losing just one of six matches with England goalkeeper Jack Butland in the side between February and March last season, Stoke have now failed to take three points in all but one of eight Premier League fixtures since without their injured number one.
With Three Lions supremo Sam Allardyce thought to be on the verge of dropping stalwart custodian Joe Hart ahead of his first match in charge next month, following Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s decision to do the same, a fit Butland would have fancied his chances of featuring.
Instead, the 23-year-old will be forced to sit out with an ankle injury sustained on the eve of the new Premier League campaign – having missed the end of last term and Euro 2016 with a similar complaint – when Hart’s City head to the Potteries.
Stoke could hardly be hosting Guardiola’s men at a worse time, with Sergio Aguero, arguably the top flight’s best player when enjoying injury-free spells, going into the match off the back of a hat-trick against Steaua Bucharest in his side’s 5-0 Champions League play-off win, despite missing two penalties.
Without Butland minding the net, Potters boss Mark Hughes will likely turn to former City stopper Shay Given once again, and while the 40-year-old limited Middlesbrough to a single goal in the 1-1 opening-day drawer at the Riverside, he only had to face two shots on target.
City managed twice as many during their seasonal debut against Sunderland, seeing off the stubbornly-resistant Black Cats 2-1 at the Etihad, before really running riot in Romania, firing in 12 efforts on goal.
Matches between these two make up something of a mixed bag of late, with Stoke eking out a 1-0 Etihad victory this time two years ago and winning 2-0 at headquarters last December, 10 months on from City pounding the Potters 4-1 at the Britannia.
Given was in goal during the first half of the two-time Premier League champions’ 4-0 home triumph over Hughes’ men last April, before giving way at the break due to a groin injury.
If Aguero is on top of his game, the veteran might not fancy seeing out this one either.
City are 67/100 to win the match, with another 4-0 priced at 20/1.