Manchester City are still settling into life under Manuel Pellegrini, and apart from an opening day win over Newcastle have failed to overly impress this term as yet. Big things are expected from the Etihad Stadium side after summer excess in the transfer market, with a challenge on all fronts the goal for the new manager.
One man that knows all too well about the pressures of being Manchester City boss is Mark Hughes, who was sacked from the club in December 2009 following the arrival of the money men. The Welsh trainer finds himself in contrasting circumstances now as the boss of Stoke, and he will be motivated to taking points off his former employer this weekend.
Although not winning silverware with City, Hughes laid the framework for the club’s success and did a much better job than people give him credit for. He stated recently that he holds no resentment towards City after his dismissal, but will secretly take great pleasure in putting the Britannia Stadium visitors under pressure.
Ahead of the game both sides sit on six points and it would surely be a source of great satisfaction for Hughes if the Potters were to pick up the three points and move higher than their illustrious opponents.
The likelihood of it actually happening is actually better than the teams on paper would suggest. The major problem that City have at the moment is that they are missing captain and talisman Vincent Kompany – a player that Hughes brought to the club.
Without the giant Belgian defender city have looked distinctly vulnerable at the back, with the side lacking a real leader to take command of the team’s defensive efforts. If you are having worries at the back, the last place you want to go is the Britannia Stadium.
Although Hughes is trying to move the club away from the high-pressure, direct side that they have become renowned during Tony Pulis’ reign, the Welshman will be tempted to knock balls into the box to the likes of Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones and see how City react.
A key player in Stoke’s evolution into a more-rounded footballing side could well be Stephen Ireland. Another former Manchester City man, the talented midfielder was a key man for Hughes in his tenure with Saturday’s opponents, but has seen his stock plummet since.
Ireland’s ability has never been in question, and if Hughes can get the playmaker close to his best again he could well be a star for Stoke. He is likely to get his debut against City at the weekend and will be just as motivated as his boss to make an early-season dent in his opponents’ title hopes.
image: © jad99