Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola era has got under way with a couple of victories but the Citizens – especially their new defence – will face their sternest test so far this season when they play Stoke away in the English Premier League.
Last season’s corresponding English Premier League fixture resulted in a 2-0 home win for Stoke and one can see the Potters, even though they are more cultured under former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes than they were in their Tony Pulis days, causing a few headaches for the Citizens.
Guardiola is rebuilding Manchester City in his own image and that means that England goalkeeper Joe Hart is surplus to requirements. Hart is not comfortable using his feet to distribute the ball and having a goalkeeper who can start movements is essential to Guardiola’s preferred style of play. That explains why Hart is on the outer at Manchester City and why Guardiola spent an obscene sum of money to acquire the signature of John Stones, who is precisely the type of ball-playing defender that the Blues coach loves.
Manchester City’s defence is a work in progress and, even when Guardiola does get the personnel that he wants, one is willing to wager that they will concede more than their fair share of goals. Stones, in particular, has a mistake or two per game in him, hence why most of Europe’s other big clubs elected not to bid millions for the then Everton youngster.
Manchester City had gone five competitive matches without a clean sheet until it demolished Steaua Bucuresti 5-0 in the UEFA Champions League preliminaries on Wednesday. Manchester City had struggled to shut out its various pre-season rivals as well so, provided that Stoke plays positively in front of its own fans, one expects the Potters to create chances.
The best bet of the second round of English Premier League games is both teams to score in Saturday’s match between Stoke and Manchester City, an option that is available at odds of -122 with Unibet. Stoke’s attacking arsenal is much underrated and a far cry from the one that Hughes inherited from Pulis several years ago. Manchester City has scored at least one goal in each of its last nine English Premier League games and it will not fire many blanks this term.
The English Premier League competition is only one round old but Crystal Palace looks like a club in crisis. Alan Pardew has decided to let Crystal Palace legend Mile Jedinak join Aston Villa and there was nothing that he could do to stop Yannick Bolasie linking up with Everton, albeit for a large fee. Jedinak was a warrior in Crystal Palace’s midfield and a terrific leader on and off the pitch, while Bolasie was Crystal Palace’s most dangerous attacking player. One fears for Crystal Palace, starting with Saturday’s English Premier League derby against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham completed an English Premier League double over Crystal Palace last season and, simply on the evidence of the first batch of divisional matches, one has to fancy Spurs to beat the Eagles at odds of -200 with Betfred.
Liverpool is the hottest away favourite on the English Premier League card and one rates the Reds as worthy of backing at odds of -167 with Betfred to win at Burnley.
Jurgen Klopp is likely to have Liverpool challenging for one of the English Premier League’s four UEFA Champions League spots and it is not out of the question that the Reds will be in the title race. Liverpool is taking shape under Klopp now that he has been able to bring in some of his own men and marginalise players about whom he holds low opinions.
Liverpool kicked off its first full English Premier League campaign with Klopp as its boss with a 4-3 win at Arsenal, whereas Burnley slumped to a 0-1 home loss versus Swansea. Burnley does not boast sufficient quality to live with Liverpool if Saturday’s English Premier League game between the promoted side and its regional rival goes to form.
Stoke v Manchester City – Both Teams to Score
Saturday 20th August, 12:30 GMT
Tottenham to beat Crystal Palace
Saturday 20th August, 15:00 GMT
Liverpool to beat Burnley
Saturday 20th August, 15:00 GMT