Stoke City v Manchester City: Walters fired up ahead of lunchtime clash
Jonathan Walters is relishing the opportunity for Stoke City to put a dent in Manchester City’s Premier League title aspirations on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit top of the table on goal difference ahead of their trip to the Potteries, but the Britannia Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for City since Stoke’s promotion to the top flight in 2008.
City have taken three points just once from their seven Premier League fixtures at the Britannia, and although that victory came in their most recent visit – a 4-1 win back in February – forward Walters is bullish about this weekend.
“I think we always fancy our chances against anyone and we’ve proved over the years that there is no fear at the Britannia,” the Republic of Ireland international told the Stoke Sentinel.
“These kinds of games really get the stadium rocking, they generate a great atmosphere. It’s one to look forward to.
“Some people might criticise their defence but they’ve got a great squad and their players are not at a team like Man City for no reason. They’re top quality players, some of the best in the world.
“It will be a difficult game but on the back of the [League Cup] quarter-final we’re full of confidence and can’t wait for the weekend.”
Saturday’s meeting could prove to be a dress rehearsal for the League Cup final after both Stoke and City came through their midweek quarter-finals before being handed last-four ties with Liverpool and Everton respectively.
Stoke’s 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday saw them bounce back impressively after last weekend’s defeat at struggling Sunderland – just their second loss in their last nine Premier League outings.
Only four points separate Mark Hughes’ 12th-placed team from Liverpool in sixth, and Walters is determined to put their Stadium of Light disappointment behind them.
“We were on a great run before the Sunderland away game when we didn’t get the result we wanted,” the 32-year-old told talkSPORT.
“It’s a very tight division this year. It’s a strange old league. Hopefully we can go on a similar run now and get back up the league.”
Stoke’s misery at Sunderland was compounded by the dismissal of captain Ryan Shawcross, although the centre-back is available this weekend after serving his suspension against Wednesday.
Striker Peter Crouch limped off with a hamstring injury in midweek and is a doubt, but Mame Biram Diouf is set to return after missing the Wednesday game to attend the birth of his child.
City, meanwhile, have responded in style to back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Juventus by comfortably beating Southampton and Hull City.
Pellegrini was boosted by the return of David Silva against Hull, but captain Vincent Kompany (calf) and Pablo Zabaleta (knee) are out of Saturday’s game and it remains to be seen whether Sergio Aguero (heel) and Joe Hart (hamstring) are risked.
Eliaquim Mangala is banned, with Fernando (knock) and Jesus Navas (ankle) doubtful.
Key Opta stats:
– Stoke have won just two of their 14 Premier League meetings with Manchester City (D5 L7), and just one of the last 12.
– Sergio Aguero has bagged five goals in his five Premier League appearances against Stoke.
– Stoke have netted just seven goals in their 14 Premier League games against Manchester City.
– Manchester City have only managed two clean sheets in their last nine Premier League games after keeping six in a row directly before that.