Pre-match analysis: How can Stoke City come away with a result from Wednesday's trip to Manchester City?

Pre-match analysis: How can Stoke City come away with a result from Wednesday's trip to Manchester City?

The Potters travel to Manchester to face up against Pep Guardiola’s men on Wednesday, but they have struggled to have an effect in recent history there having only ever scored a goal at the Etihad once in the Premier League.

Tom Thrower

So how can Stoke City, who have only avoided defeat on one of their trips to Manchester City in the Premier League, possibly hope to come away without another figure added to the loss column?

The two sides go head-to-head on Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium with the Potters looking to build on the win over Middlesbrough at the weekend, though they face a tough test.

Have an attacking game plan, alongside a defensive one

Stoke’s latest capitulation against Tottenham Hotspur saw a fundamental flaw in their game plan exposed. Mark Hughes set his team up with very little focus on how they may pose a threat to Spurs, and this cost the Potters.

Because of this Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had to spend very little time concerned with how to protect his side defensively, and this allowed a heavy focus on dominating the Potters.

Full-backs Ben Davies and Kyle Walker spent much of their time in Stoke’s half, stretching the defence creating holes for the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane, and were rarely forced back.

Obviously suggesting Stoke throw caution to the wind and attack City is not the way forward, but having a counter-attacking option is a must if the Potters want to be on anything other than a thrashing to nil.

Bring Berahino in and Shaqiri back 

In Peter Crouch Stoke have a striker who does what he says on the tin, winning long balls, and using knock-downs and flick-ons to his advantage.

But in Saido Berahino Stoke have something of an unknown quantity, due to his lack of game time during the final months of his spell at West Bromwich Albion. He possess pace and runs with intelligence, making him the perfect counter attacking outlet.

And reintroducing Xherdan Shaqiri, a player with the vision and intelligence to play the lethal balls in behind will be essential to effective counter-attacking.

Shaqiri should not displace either Marko Arnautović or Ramadan Sobhi, who both dismantled Boro on Saturday, instead he should come into the 'number 10' role currently occupied by Joe Allen.

The Welshman will be much more valuable in a familiar holding role, where his tireless work rate will plauge City's playmakers, and Stoke will reap the rewards of playing a more decisive and attacking central midfielder, such as Shaqiri.

Exploit weaknesses

Another tactical front that Stoke often seem to struggle on is making the most of an opponent’s weakness.

This approach works when playing an opponent who are collectively worse than Stoke, but when faced with an opponent who are either on a par with or ahead of the Potters ability wise they struggle. This is shown by the failure to beat a top-half side once this season.

City are the prime example of a side who are collectively much stronger than Stoke, yet have weaknesses that are easily exploitable.

These pitfalls mainly manifest themselves in John Stones, who has the highest number of defensive errors leading to goals of any outfield players in the Premier League, with three.

Monaco exploited as such in their Champions league tie, with two goals coming from errors. First it was Willy Caballero who handed Monaco the ball from a goal kick and for the third Stones lost possession in his own half and Falcao applied a devastating finish.

Attacking the centre-half with pace and guile will see his weaknesses exploited and give Stoke an opportunity to steal some points from the Citizens.

Defend as a compact unit

Stoke’s defence has a habit of unravelling this season, and to do so against Man City will end in certain failure. Again, Monaco were an example of this, as they performed excellently going forward managing to find the back of the net three times, yet were punished defensively conceding five.

The Potters themselves have struggled with such an issue, and the Spurs match again looks to be the prime example of this. Erik Pieters and Phil Bardsley, Stoke's full backs, pressed too high up the field leaving the centre-back pairing exposed.

Such mistakes cannot occur again against the most potent strike force in the Premier League if Stoke are to have any hope of leaving Manchester with their heads held high.

Bardsley (2) and Pieters (3) pushed up high exposing Shawcross (17) and Indi (15) | WhoScored
Bardsley (2) and Pieters (3) pushed up high exposing Shawcross (17) and Indi (15) | WhoScored

Pray for some luck

This speaks for itself, most teams who go and get a result away at the Etihad have luck on their side.

Stoke themselves have been the benefactors of such luck, when Mame Biram Diouf got from his own box to the oppositions he needed the luck as his mis-kick slid between Joe Hart's legs.

Stoke have benefitted from luck this season against the other side from Manchester, who Stoke have had two 1-1 draws with.

During these two fixtures, United managed to have 49 shots and only score twice, and if the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba had donned their shooting boots, these games could’ve quite easily been added to the four-conceded tally.

It won’t be an easy task for the Potters who have failed to truly perform outstandingly since December 2015 when they pulled off shocks against both Manchester clubs.

But with a focus on their own strengths, attacking the opponent's weaknesses and some good old fashioned hard work, the Potters may be able to pull off one of the shocks of the season.