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Betting preview: Stoke - Manchester City

Paul Lambert is taking the bullish approach towards a game against Manchester City, insisting Stoke can send shockwaves through the bottom half of the division by picking up maximum points against the champions-elect. It's an admirable stance but one without any real foundation. He could be setting the Potters up for a hiding.

Since Lambert picked up the reins in mid-January, Stoke have undoubtedly improved - but not by much. They kicked off his tenure with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield and have now suffered defeat just once in six matches, but there was scant attacking threat on show in draws against Watford (0-0), Brighton (1-1), Leicester (1-1) and Southampton (0-0).

Indeed, Stoke are actually offering less going forward than they were under Mark Hughes, averaging just 0.71 expected goals per game against opposition with an average xG ratio of 40.76 per cent. They have tightened up defensively but not nearly enough to believe they can withstand the onslaught that might well be forthcoming from Pep Guardiola's men.

The visitors will be at full strength and Guardiola is eager to obliterate the memory of last week's surprise home defeat to Basel, while their shock exit from the FA Cup at Wigan three weeks ago means they now head out to Abu Dhabi straight after this clash.

So a demob-happy away dressing room could spell big trouble for the hosts. When City last jetted off to the Emirate in this fashion, they put five goals past Monaco in the Champions League and the 7-2 hiding they dished out to Stoke in the reverse fixture in October only adds weight to the suspicion that this could be a rout.

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That humiliation at the Etihad wasn't an isolated event, either. Since the Potters began September with a 2-2 draw against Manchester United, they've lost all six games against top-six opposition by an aggregate score of 27-3, losing by margins of three (twice), four (twice) and five (twice). None of those defeats were on Lambert's watch, but one assumes the memory of them carries more clout than his words.

David Silva is back for the Sky Blues after spending a few days in Valencia on compassionate leave and while City's overall record is astonishing in itself, there's nonetheless a clear distinction in how irresistible they become when the mercurial Spaniard is around to dictate the tempo. Over the past 11 months, his personal record reads W31 D1 L1 F100 A18.

That solitary defeat came at Wigan, a game notable for Kevin De Bruyne's name being absent from the starting line-up. The Belgian replaced Silva on 65 minutes that evening and couldn't fashion an equaliser but, when the two men operate in tandem, City are close to unstoppable. Their winning streak when both players start currently stands at 25 matches.

The oddly pedestrian 1-0 win over Chelsea last weekend was the first time in nine attempts that City haven't netted at least three goals with both Silva and De Bruyne on the pitch, all of which creates an appeal in the odds-against quotes about the visitors landing the -2.0 Asian handicap. Without a game for 19 days, there's simply no reason for Guardiola to hold anything back.

Recommended bet:

Manchester City -2.0 on the Asian handicap at 11/10

England - Premier League Stoke City vs Manchester City 12 March, 20:00 GMT 0

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