Manchester City vs. Stoke City: 5 Key Battles to Watch

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterDecember 31, 2012

Manchester City vs. Stoke City: 5 Key Battles to Watch

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    Manchester City begin the second half of their Premier League campaign with the visit of Stoke City on New Year’s Day.

    The Britannia Stadium side are renowned for making life difficult for high-profile clubs in the top flight as Liverpool and Arsenal can testify.

    However, City have a decent record at home against Stoke City as they prepare to track down Manchester United’s seven-point lead in the title race.

    The Potters have not won at City since the two sides clashed in the old Division One in October 1997.

    Here is a look at some of the key battle on show at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

Edin Dzeko vs. Ryan Shawcross

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    Edin Dzeko has maintained a relatively low profile for Manchester City since his £27 million move from Wolfsburg two years ago.

    But the Bosnia striker has been a crucial component in the success enjoyed by Roberto Mancini’s team during that period.

    His late equalizer against Notts County in the 2011 FA Cup fourth round prevented a shock defeat and helped City toward their eventual triumph against Stoke City.

    Last season Dzeko sealed his place in City folklore when he equalized to make it 2-2 against QPR before Sergio Aguero claimed the title-winning goal on the final day of the campaign.

    Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross will return from suspension for the game at the Etihad Stadium.

    The influence of the 25-year-old was notably absent during Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Southampton at the Britannia Stadium as the Potters had to come from 3-1 down to salvage a point.

    Shawcross will be looking to open 2013 well after winning his first England cap in the friendly defeat to Sweden in November 2012.

    The central defender has recently been linked with a move to both Manchester club,s but his intention on Tuesday will be to ensure his former club United are grateful to his presence at Stoke.

Gareth Barry vs. Charlie Adam

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    Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry will have a point to prove to his employers in 2013.

    The England international is poised to open talks with the club over a new contract with his current deal set to expire in 2014.

    The 31-year-old has been mainstay of City’s success story in recent years, making 34 Premier League appearances for the club in their successful title-winning campaign last season.

    Charlie Adam, meanwhile, is rediscovering his form with Stoke City after a disappointing spell with Liverpool.

    The Scotland international won plaudits for his style of play with Blackpool during their 2010-2011 Premier League campaign. Adam scored 12 times in 35 appearances for the Seasiders in the top flight and encouraging Liverpool to shell out almost £7 million in a transfer.

    The 27-year-old failed to find his form at Anfield though and made the switch to Stoke in the summer for £4 million.

Vincent Kompany vs. Kenwyne Jones

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    It is testament to the esteem with which Manchester City hold captain Vincent Kompany that the captain is currently on a six-year deal at the Etihad Stadium, the longest of its kind at the club.

    The presence of the Belgium international at the heart of the City defense has provided a bedrock for the team’s success in recent seasons.

    The 26-year-old, though, will be up against an admirable adversary at the Etihad Stadium on New Year’s Day.

    Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones has been in excellent form recently, hitting three goals in his last four matches for the Potters.

    The 28-year-old Trinidad and Tobago international remains one of the most difficult to mark and track in the Premier League with his pace and aerial ability.

Roberto Mancini vs Tony Pulis

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    Roberto Mancini and Tony Pulis are cut from very different cloths in terms of management style.

    Mancini is the calm figure on the sidelines, rarely displaying emotions until the stakes are raised, such as they were in that last-gasp Premier League title win over Queens Park Rangers in May.

    The former Inter Milan coach has built his managerial career on assembling teams from the back, safe in the knowledge that a clean sheet will allow his strike force to claim points.

    Pulis has learnt his trade at the lower levels of the English game, earning his reputation with Bournemouth, Gillingham and Bristol City.

    His teams boast a physical presence and are a persistent threat to opposing sides at set pieces.

    Pulis was denied promotion to Division One with Gillingham in 1999 by City when his team conceded two late goals and were subsequently beaten in a penalty shootout in the Division Two playoff final at Wembley.

Manchester City vs. Seven Points

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    We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Manchester City chasing rivals Manchester United in the Premier League title race.

    This time, however, City have 19 matches in which to claw back the deficit on the Old Trafford club.

    While City were resurgent in the final throes of last season, it was United who shot themselves in the foot in the closing stages of the campaign.

    A 4-4 home draw with Everton epitomised the problems in the United rearguard as they twice allowed a two-goal lead to slip.

    Those defensive problems remain for United, but the presence of striker Robin van Persie will not let points drift as they did last year.

    City will need to be at their most resilient for the second half of the campaign and show the same spirit that defeated Reading in the final minute recently.

    There can be no room for indiscipline with Sir Alex Ferguson desperate to regain his crown from Roberto Mancini’s team.