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Milner was just one of six changes in the City XI.
City played like strangers against Stoke because, from a match perspective, they largely were.
Stevan Jovetic made his debut in sky blue. Alvaro Negredo made his first City start. James Milner, Jack Rodwell and Samir Nasri featured prominently in the midfield with starts of their own.
And Javi Garcia, inexplicably, lined up next to Matija Nastasic at centre-back. More on that in a bit.
Six changes from the XI that started two weeks ago against Hull City meant the Citizens were to a significant degree making it up as they went along. It showed.
Neither Negredo nor Jovetic, fearsome strikers in their respective leagues last season, looked much like scoring.
Nasri, Rodwell, Milner and Yaya Toure were inexplicably bossed around the Britannia midfield by the likes of Charlie Adam and Steven N'Zonzi.
It is all well and fine that City have a Champions League match in three days and the first derby in a week.
That does not excuse starting such a toothless, disconnected side on the road in the Premier League.