By a week on Wednesday I’ve a feeling that this will be reminiscent of Bill Murray’s experience in ‘Groundhog Day’ – although I hope it will be better than the film as that will mean that we’ve won both matches.
After the drawn FA Cup tie on Saturday, Mancini’s men hot-foot it down to the Brit on Tuesday for our rearranged league match and then repeat the exercise next week for the Cup replay. By the end of that, the two teams will either be on each other’s Christmas card lists – or at each other’s throats.
Both managers know that whilst the FA Cup is a great competition, the real prize is the Premier League. We’ve still got a minimum of ten points to get to ensure survival, whilst the billionaires at Eastlands know that failure means not finishing in the top four.
Certainly Big Tone knows what he wants when the Beeb spoke to him last week: ‘Which of those games with City would I rather win? Both!’
‘I look at the bottom of the league table and we are still involved. So I just want to get to 40 points as quickly as possible.’
Stoke City Team News:
Still no news on the extent of Matty Etherington’s knee injury, but he won’t be taking part on Tuesday. But there is better news as Liam Lawrence and Andy Wilkinson’s injuries are not as bad as first feared and they should be available. Abdoulaye Faye also seems ready to start after his back problem has cleared up.
Player to watch: Ryan Shawcross
Ryan’s uncharacteristic blunder (along with Thomas Sorensen) on Saturday gifted the lead to Man City. Hopefully normal service will be resumed on Tuesday.
Man City Team News:
The good news is that Carlos Tevez is still away in Argentina for family reasons. Craig Bellamy (knee) and Vincent Kompany (groin) are also still out and Martin Petrov is doubtful, but Adam Johnson returns after being cup tied on Saturday.
Player to watch: Shaun Wright-Phillips
Wilko had severe problems controlling the small and nimble winger and earned a yellow card for his efforts. We may just see a different game plan from the manager this time around.
Match Facts & Stats
Neil Warnock will not be pleased to see that Alan Wiley has Trevor Massey running the line. The Palace manager asked for Massey to be suspended following the assistant ref’s decision to give a corner, rather than a goal-kick, in Sunday’s cup tie against Villa from which O’Neill’s men earned a replay in the dying minutes.
Saturday 20th February: Portsmouth (away) kick-off: 5.30pm * ESPN
Wednesday 24th February: Man City (Part 3): kick-off: 7.45pm