Manchester City's 2014-15 season was set up very nicely for them to go, at least for a while, somewhat unnoticed.
Several Premier League sides did transfer business worthy of headlines. Cesc Fabregas is now a Chelsea man, and Thibaut Courtois is now the Blues' starting goalkeeper. Luis Suarez is no longer Liverpool's problem.
Manchester City had by comparison a somnolent transfer period. They landed Fernando quickly but Eliaquim Mangala only after months of pursuit.
The remainder of Manchester City's summer business was tied up in handing out several new contracts to their own players, which was good business but not the stuff of breathless reporting
Manchester United were the story of the summer. Louis Van Gaal's tenure at United began with eyebrow-raising results for a club that uncharacteristically was in need of some good news for a change.
United blasted Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy in Van Gaal's debut and followed that convincing performance with a capable and professional claiming of the Guinness International Champions Cup over Liverpool.
But United are winless since the beginning of the league season and just sustained one of the most embarrassing cup dismissals in their history. United are a story now but for all of the wrong reasons.
If United could not draw attention away from Manchester City, perhaps Chelsea could. Jose Mourinho's side was a real darling of many pundits who were asked for a preseason prediction of which Premier League side would win the 2014-15 title.
True to form, though, Chelsea ceased being interesting once they started playing football.
Chelsea opened their league season with two workmanlike and perfunctory results over newly promoted sides Burnley and Leicester City. It is hard to make much narrative out of a lion eating two gazelles.
Manchester City's other best hope to avoid attention was Liverpool. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they had to play City in the second league match for both sides.
If Manchester City hoped to continue to fly under the media's radar, their clinical defeat of the Reds was not the way to do so.
Everyone remembers who Manchester City are again, and their quality was described well by Grantland's Mike L. Goodman:
Manchester City are awesome, and they are awesome right now. You don’t have to wonder if their parts will gel, or if they can sign the missing link, or what they will look like once the players learn the system.
Manchester City are a juggernaut right now, and they will be all year long.
Goodman noted that Liverpool may rue the loss to City while their side is in flux. Mario Balotelli is on his way, and Liverpool are learning to play without having Suarez there to paper over defensive cracks with a goal or three. But as Goodman put it, "Clubs don’t get mulligans on matches they biff in August."
This leads us finally to Manchester City's match with Stoke City.
For Manchester City, playing Stoke City after vanquishing Liverpool and learning of their own Champions League draw is probably going to carry all the excitement of a grocery run.
But these three points against Stoke City are as vital to Manchester City's title hopes as any they will earn against glamour sides like United, Chelsea or Liverpool. And Stoke City notoriously never give anything away cheaply, particularly against purportedly superior sides.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini memorably shook up his XI against Stoke City at the Potteries last season and came close to losing all three points. You can be fairly certain that Pellegrini will not run a similar risk here.
Manchester City's predicted XI against Stoke City: Joe Hart; Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov; David Silva, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri; Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic.
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