How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Stoke City
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Manchester City return to action in the Premier League on Saturday when they make the short-ish trip to the Britannia Stadium to take on a Stoke City side under the guidance of the Blues' former manager Mark Hughes.
There won't be too many players in Manuel Pellegrini's selection that pulled on the blue shirt for Hughes in 2008 and 2009, but how exactly will Man City line up?
Here's my prediction: Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Nastasic, Kolarov; Navas, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Nasri; Aguero, Negredo.
The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel reports that Micah Richards is available once again after recovering from a hamstring injury, "but City will take a cautious view with regards to his availability on Saturday."
Forced to watch Pablo Zabaleta's excellent form from the sidelines through injury for most of last season, Richards won't replace the Argentine workhorse just yet, especially after the excellent cross that set up Alvaro Negredo's goal against Hull last time out.
At least Richards' return to fitness provides Pellegrini with an option, both at right-back and even in central defence. Vincent Kompany is still out with a groin problem for an unspecified time, and new signing Martin Demichelis, brought in as cover, won't play for around six weeks due to an ankle problem.
Richards served his time in the middle before Roberto Mancini decided right back was the England international's best position, but whether Pellegrini feels the same way is not yet known.
So for now Matija Nastasic and Joleon Lescott will continue at centre back, and Aleksander Kolarov did nothing wrong in the 2-0 win over Hull so will retain his place ahead of Gael Clichy.
One of Pellegrini's two changes to the side that started against Hull will come in midfield due to injury sustained over the international break. The Daily Star reported in midweek that David Silva was facing a "race against time to be fit" after picking up a thigh problem in training while away with Spain.
With City's deep resources, it's unlikely that Pellegrini will risk Silva, especially with the Champions League and the Manchester derby looming. Therefore Samir Nasri, who has looked good in a couple of cameo performances so far this season, will start.
There is a case for James Milner to play on the flank, in a similar role to the one he filled in England's much-debated display against Ukraine. The Yorkshireman divides opinion in some quarters, but has been a consistent performer when given the chance at City.
If the Britannia Stadium still had the bear-pit atmosphere it had under Tony Pulis I think Milner would play, but times have changed so Pellegrini will go for the more positive option and choose Nasri.
The other change will come up front, where Negredo should be rewarded for his goals as a substitute against Cardiff and Hull with the chance to shine from the beginning.
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