It’s Champions’ League week and all of the English clubs participating fielded teams drawing from their ample squads for the Barclays Premier League teams in the run-up to games against the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Viktoria Plzen, FC Basel and Marseille.
Manchester United and Arsenal’s victories this weekend were tinged with refereeing controversy while Chelsea and Manchester City were punished for their poor finishing. The Londoners went down 1-0 to Roberto Martinez’ Everton at Goodison Park, a side bolstered by former City midfielder Gareth Barry, with boss Jose Mourinho claiming that they didn’t get what they deserved.
“If you don’t score a goal what you create means nothing. It is a simple story,” said Mourinho.
“You have to put the ball in the net. Artistic football without goals is no good. We didn’t have killer instinct.”
New signing, striker Samuel Eto’o, didn’t get the service he would have wanted, complained Mourinho.
Ashley Cole was at fault for Steven Naismith’s winner after conceding a needless free kick after Peter Cech’s rolled pass to him.
“We are not talking about young kids,” added Mourinho.
City, too, were much changed, with forwards Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic making starts along with Samir Nasri who came in for injured David Silva who wasn’t risked as part of six changes for City. The sight of Javi Garcia once again making a start in the defence will not have cheered travelling City fans who recalled the defeat at Cardiff City on August 25.
Without injured defenders Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards the defence was always going to adopt a makeshift look but the addition of Aleksandar Kolarov with Gael Clichy rested gave Stoke fans reason to believe that they were going to get one over on Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium once again.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini was positive about a point gained rather than two lost. He said:
“Against Stoke here it is always a difficult game but is a good point in a difficult week with all the players we had in the national squad. We could only spend one day with them and prepare the squad and we also have Champions League next week.
“I am not always happy when I draw but this time it is a good point. We had two clear chances to score but Stoke had chances as well.
“We must improve on a lot of things. We are trying to do it and we know about it.”
They can be thankful that former manager Mark Hughes’ new charges weren’t as clinical as Everton were during a 0-0 draw that served to confirm Stoke City away as the least favourite away ground for Manchester City.
Stoke could and should have had a third consecutive victory under Hughes with their best chance arriving from casual play in his own half by Nasri who gave the ball away and left Kenwyne Jones one-on-one with ‘keeper Joe Hart.
Hart has been criticised for his recent performances for club and country but he blocked Jones’ effort although City’s goal led a charmed life as Stoke’s attackers spurned chance after chance to punish their visitors after creating more chances with an energetic pressing game.
Ironically, it might have been a different game had Negredo and Jovetic done better with their early chances but not even the introduction of Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas from the bench in the second half could rouse City who were increasingly looking forward to their European trip to the Czech Republic next week.