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Manchester City-Stoke City Preview

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

In the seven matches following the ones champions-elect Manchester City either drew or lost out of 46 games spanning all competitions during this potential season of history in the making, Pep Guardiola's side have won all seven by a combined 22-5 scoreline.

Offer up a prayer or kind thoughts then, for relegation-threatened Stoke City, who look to slow down the sky blue juggernaut Monday at bet365 Stadium.

While their second-leg round of 16 Champions League tie Wednesday at the Etihad was little more than a dead rubber because Manchester City (25-3-1) stormed to a 4-0 victory at FC Basel three weeks prior, their 2-1 loss to the Swiss club - even with an understrength side as the Catalan manager made six changes - served as a remainder they are not invincible.

Gabriel Jesus, making his first start in over two months after being sidelined with a knee injury, scored his first goal in four matches since his return, but City lacked any and all incision the final 45 minutes as Basel turned the aggressors and ended the Citizens' 13-match winning streak and 36-match unbeaten run at the Etihad.

While the final stats showed City set a Champions League record with 978 completed passes to go with their customary 71 percent possession, the numbers rang hollow to Guardiola, who fumed - almost to the point of hyperbole - at the rare reversal despite not having anything at stake.

"The first half was quite good, but in the second half we forgot to attack, we forgot to play," Guardiola told The Times. "We passed the ball for nothing and the second half was really, really poor.

"Maybe people will think with the way we played, we are not able to fight to go through (to the semi-finals)," he said. "Maybe people will say that the team does not deserve to fight for everything."

Manchester City will learn their quarterfinal opponent Friday, with the potential it could be at least one Premier League opponent in Liverpool while eternal rivals Manchester United and Chelsea play their second-leg ties against Spanish sides Sevilla and Barcelona on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

In the interim, is Monday's match as City look to add to their already commanding 16-point lead over United heading into the weekend. And coming off a loss, anything less than a focused effort from City would be a surprise, especially since Guardiola views this match as vital to how his team prepares for the Champions League as they chase a treble of European title and Premier League crown to go with their League Cup triumph.

"The situation this season is exceptional because the (points) distance is not normal at the beginning of March," he explained. "We lost against Basel and the Premier League is quite similar, we are almost champions but we are not done. We have to take the points as soon as possible.

"What is going to happen in the quarterfinals depend on our level in the Premier League and in the Premier League it can help us in the quarterfinals. That's why we have to be focused on what we have to do."

Stoke City (6-9-14) are all too familiar with what a focused Manchester City can do after being smashed for seven in the reverse fixture Oct. 14 as Kevin De Bruyne assisted on two goals and contributed to the set up of three others. Jesus had a brace and led a parade of goal-scorers that included Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and Bernando Silva; and in case there was wonder why Sergio Aguero wasn't on that list, it was because he went unused on the bench.

The Potters begin the weekend in the drop zone on 27 points, but have claimed seven points in the six matches (1-4-1) since Paul Lambert replaced the sacked Tony Pulis. However, the offence continues to be a concern as Stoke have just five goals since Lambert's arrival and three in the last five.

Stoke played Southampton to a scoreless draw March 3, and Lambert can draw upon some history to rally his charges as City have not done the double over the Potters since the 1998-99 season.

"It's a great game for us, nobody expects anything," Lambert told StaffsLive. "It'll be a great atmosphere and on any given day you can win a game of football. I've got a few things in my head that I want to try and implement first and foremost, but I know we're up against the top side in England.

"We'll go into the game with Manchester City and give everything we've got to try and win it. It'll be a great occasion for us and I can't wait for the game to come around."

Stoke are 4-7-12 in all competitions versus Manchester City in the Premier League era, and the Potters' defence have been airtight or supine against them of late. The Potters have recorded four clean sheets in the last nine matches between the teams, going 2-2-5 in that run, but City have hit them for four goals in three matches in addition to the seven in October.

Updated March 9, 2018

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