Preview: Manchester City v Stoke City

Tonight should see an extra special ovation greet the teams as they walk out onto the pitch. Hopefully that will inspire Roberto Mancini’s side in a game that has gained extra significance following Arsenal’s defeat to Villa.

There are two clear advantages to finishing third. Qualifying directly for the Champions League group stages rather than having to play a qualifier where City might not be seeded is the obvious one. The second is that payments for partaking in the competition are higher for the team that finishes third.

Many will say this does not matter to a club owned by Sheikh Mansour but, with Financial Fair Play coming in, City need to increase their revenues by as much as possible. Diminishing Arsenal’s revenues would be no bad thing either, as we seek to catch them in the money tables.

The talk coming out of City is that the players will be fully focussed on tonight’s game, now that attaining third place is in our own hands. Quite what the morale of the Stoke players will be like is open to question.

No doubt there will be a desire for revenge. However if City score the first goal, then Stoke may struggle to respond. No doubt our fans will be roaring the side on.

With regard to the line-up it looks like Mancini will make some enforced changes, according to this tweet by the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman.

Ian Ladyman, Twitter:!/Ian_Ladyman_DM/statuses/70240146062180352

#mcfc team news for tomorrow. balotelli out with knee, tevez bench. Silva big doubt, knee.

As a result Dzeko looks sure to start and could be flanked by Adam Johnson and James Milner. If Barry is still not 100% fit, then Vieira could come in and add his height and experience from the start.

With Kolarov coming through relatively unscathed at Wembley, the defence ought to be the same again.

For Stoke, the gamble to play Etherington on Saturday failed and he could miss tonight. Pennant was struggling with his ankle and could be another absentee.

Withouth Tevez, Balotelli and Silva, City will be less fluent in attack. Breaking down Stoke’s disciplined defence could therefore prove tricky. An early goal, while the crowd are in full voice, will make the job a lot easier and put us on track for the bonus of third place.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Richards – Kompany – Lescott – Kolarov
de Jong – Vieira
A Johnson – Y Toure – Milner

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

FA Cup Final verdict: Manchester City 1 Stoke City 0
Player ratings: Manchester City v Stoke City

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