Will Manchester City come to regret not taking charge of the Premier League title race in its formative stages?
They sit top but the heights they’ve hit in their nine wins from 14 have been undermined by some shaky performances.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men lost at home to West Ham, were torn apart by Tottenham, and couldn’t break down Manchester United or a terrible Aston Villa outfit.
They were then humbled 4-1 at home by Liverpool.
Chelsea’s championship defence was over before it started, and challengers Arsenal, United, Liverpool and Spurs have been unable to muster any more than an average of two points per game.
Plenty of opportunities to steal a march on the pack have passed.
It could be another case of ‘what if?’ in the early kick off at Stoke on Saturday.
After taking just three points from their opening six games, Stoke have won five of their last eight league fixtures.
Goalkeeper Jack Butland has kept five clean sheets in that period to propel them to within a point of the top half.
When these two met here in February, the points went back up the M6 with the visitors.
Remarkably, it was City’s first ever league away victory at Stoke.
The Potters haven’t quite hit their stride this year but, at a fired up Britannia Stadium, I don’t see a repeat tomorrow.
Before last season, the previous five years had seen the points shared, with four of those ending 1-1.
Combined with City’s indifferent away form – 11 points from 18 – there is enough evidence to warrant backing a stalemate at 3/1 with Betway.
Butland’s excellent form has seen him emerge as serious competition for Joe Hart’s England place and I can’t see too many going past him tomorrow.
The 1-1 correct score at a general 7/1 appeals, as does selling total goals at 2.75 with Sporting Index.
Draw 3/1 Betway
1-1 correct score 7/1 general
Sell total goals 2.75 Sporting Index