Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Saturday December 26 2009
26th December 2009
Stoke City will step into a media maelstrom today at Eastlands as Man City parade their new manager. Tony Pulis got the squad together last night at a hotel and will be trying to ensure that their minds are on the football rather than the media circus on the blue side of Manchester.
It's likely that whichever side copes best with the attention will come out the winners with Man City under the worse pressure after the events that saw Mark Hughes depart last weekend and Roberto Mancini installed which, if you listen to the rumours, has upset some of the senior players.
Tony Pulis is not sure how the pressure will effect either side: 'There is bound to be some sort of reaction, good or bad, but you can toss a coin. I'm sure they'll be fired up for it and if they start well, we could be in for a very difficult afternoon. But if they don't, then it could work in our favour.
Mancini banned Christmas Day at Eastlands, preferring to have his players with him for the whole day in an attempt to quickly rebuild some of the team spirit that evaporated after last weekend's win against Sunderland. He'll have to cope without Nedum Onuoha, Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge who are all injured and fitness doubts surround Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The Argentinian seems to have found his feet on the blue side of the city and out of the shadows of the likes of Berbatov and Rooney typified by his five goals in the last five games.
Robert Huth is back from suspension and Ryan Shawcross is hoping to have finally shaken off a groin strain that kept him out of the match at Villa last weekend. You'd expect Tony Pulis to stick with the same front line that did well at Villa despite the scoreline, so it would look like Tuncay and Big Mama up front with James Beattie and Ric Fuller on the bench. Stoke will want to put the disappointment of that unjustified defeat behind them and move on and whilst this is a tough match there is a chance to throw some banana skins in front of the home team.
We all know that Big Mama is not exactly a prolific scorer so the sight of the Mali striker heading into the back of the net after a long spell out with an injury would have been a welcome surprise. To then see that perfectly good goal disallowed last week is something we hope that he's able to bounce back from quickly - how about today?
Lee Mason. All we ask for this Christmas is a fair ref.....
Monday 28th December: Birmingham (home) kick-off: 3pm
Saturday 2nd January: York City (home) kick-off: 3pm FA Cup
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Date:Saturday December 26 2009
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