Happy Christmas Planet Blue! Mancini’s men are gathering at a Manchester hotel on Christmas Day night no doubt logging on to VMC to see what Vital Stoke’s Chris Baldwin has to say…!
1. Roberto Mancini’s 6th placed City prepare to welcome 11th placed Stoke after what has been even by The Blues standards, an extraordinary few days. Stoke arrive on Boxing Day for Mancini’s first game in charge on the back of one win in the last six league games. What’s the big picture at Stoke going into this one?
‘We were disappointed not to come away with at least a point from Villa and Pulis has been muttering about the number of points we’ve dropped from winning positions – especially away from home and he blames our strikers and the referees in equal measure.’
2. Tony Pulis. 10 years on from that astonishing third tier play off final with The Citizens at Wembley, the former Gillingham gaffer has established Stoke in the Premier League. A hell of an achievement all things considered, but the baseball capped character sails close to controversy from time to time. How do you rate him?
‘He admits that he’s still learning how to cope in the Premier League but you can’t fault his game plan over the last couple of seasons. Other teams may have moaned about his tactics last season, but he kept us up and Wolves and Burnley are just two teams who’ve said that they are trying to follow his example. Top Man!’
3. What are your hopes, dreams and fears for this season?
‘Just to survive is the first target and that’s by no means certain despite what the pundits say. After that – if we’ve just improved as a team that will make me happy.’
4. ‘Shot by both sides:’ The Dangermen. Who should City, and in turn, Stoke be paying close attention to at Eastlands on Boxing Day?
‘Now that TP has let Tuncay loose, he’s like a caged lion who’s been allowed to roam and desperate to prove himself.
‘Our danger is not to get sucked into the media circus on Saturday. Being first up against a new manager is not good news. We came a cropper last season when Allardyce rolled into Blackburn for his first match.’
5. Seismic changes at Manchester City. What’s your take on ‘Hughesgate?’
‘Hughes is a good manager and will be lined up for another top job before too long. For your sakes, let’s hope that you don’t suffer a dip whilst the new boss finds his feet (after we’ve beaten you on Saturday of course!) and that you don’t live to regret an unnecessary change at the top in mid season.’
6. Are The Citizens guilty of ‘ruining football,’ one of the more hysterical charges levelled at the club throughout 2009?
‘No, we’d all love to be in your shoes if the truth be told.’
7. And so to battle. Your match prediction? Can Stoke catch City cold at this crossroads in The Blues history?
‘Difficult to call – our away form has been far better than last season’s back to the wall style of play, but we still seem to suffer from a lack of confidence on our travels. If we can concentrate on playing football rather than the media circus that will descend on Saturday then there could be an upset but I’d still take a point now.’
8. The Bulging Sack Bonus: What do you want for Christmas?!
‘Just a game of football where the ref gets all his decisions right! Is that too much to ask?’
Very many thanks to Chris and the Vital Stoke team!
Deadly Sinners so far this season:
Blackburn Rovers: Mikey D
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Akela
Arsenal: Paul Mustchin
Manchester united: Nobby Allcock
West Ham: Rossy
Aston Villa: The Fear
Wigan Athetic: Worbo
Fulham: Andrew Joyce
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
Liverpool: Chubby Alonso
Hull City: Matt Wilson
Bolton Wanderers: Richard McC
Tottenham Hotspur: OxfordSpur
Sunderland: Gaz Johnson
Stoke: Chris Baldwin
VMC City Video Link: City Squad Christmas Message
VMC Forum Link: MATCHDAY THREAD: Man City v Stoke City – Saturday Dec 26 Boxing Day – 3pm UK Time KO
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