Manchester City know they must take advantage of every home match between now and season's end, including a New Year's Day clash with Stoke City, in order to chase down rival Manchester United. The second-place Citizens currently trail by seven points.
City are coming off a thrilling 4-3 victory over Norwich, which featured terrific attacking effort that was almost wasted by mistakes at the back. The back line needs to have a better performance in what's sure to be a tighter match on Tuesday.
Stoke showed off some previously unseen offensive prowess in their last two Premier League matches, scoring a total of six goals. They tallied just 15 goals in their first 18 matches, but have remained in the European spot mix thanks to a tremendous defensive approach.
Here's a glance at all the important viewing information for Tuesday's match followed by a preview and prediction as Man City take on Stoke.
Where: Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England
When: Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 10 a.m. ET
Watch: ESPN Deportes
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Manchester City Player to Watch: Edin Dzeko
Dzeko ended a goal-scoring drought with two goals in the first four minutes against Norwich. It was his most inspired performance in over a month, as he worked hard to assert himself in the attacking third after going missing in several recent matches.
The two tallies put him in the team lead with eight in league play, one ahead of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. While manager Roberto Mancini would like to see more consistency, it's hard to argue with Dzeko's production.
Against Stoke, the Bosnian star must find a way to build off the weekend momentum. Finding holes in the Potters' back line has proven to be a difficult task. City need Dzeko to step up again in order to earn all three points.
Stoke City Player to Watch: Jon Walters
While most of the attention is focused on the Stoke defense, Walters has provided a much-needed scoring punch. His five goals in EPL play lead the squad, with two coming in a recent victory over a resurgent Liverpool side.
The veteran striker has played with nearly a dozen clubs during his career, but found his groove with Stoke over the past three seasons. While he doesn't possess blazing speed or elite skill, he regularly outworks opponents, and it shows in the numbers.
If the Potters want to steal a point on New Year's Day, they need to rely on their usual counterattacking approach. They can not allow the match to become a shootout. That puts a lot of pressure on Walters to convert when he gets an opportunity.
Matchup to Watch: Man City offense vs. Stoke City defense
It will be interesting to see which side gains the early edge in this matchup. City will likely dominate possession, but it all comes down to generating good scoring chances, which Stoke have limited throughout the campaign.
The Citizens feature one of the league's most potent attacks, led by the aforementioned trio of Dzeko, Aguero and Tevez. However, the Potters have only allowed 17 goals in 20 matches, the best mark in the Premier League.
In order for City to control the match, they have to focus on getting a goal in the first half hour. The longer they go without getting on the scoreboard, the greater the advantage is for Stoke. An early tally would open up the match, and that's exactly what they want.
Manchester City 2, Stoke City 1
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