David Silva turns in artful display to help Manchester City past Stoke
In a stadium that has traditionally produced problems for Manchester City in the Premier League era, Pep Guardiola's side coasted past Stoke City 2-0 on Monday -- gaining maximum points virtually unhindered for the second season running.
Adding two to the seven scored against the same opponent in October, Man City underlined their new found superiority over their once tricky rivals, moving to within two victories of this season's Premier League title. Guardiola's men have now won 101 points from the last 38 league games, the equivalent of a full season.
The team's ability to build in rest periods to games is becoming noteworthy. After an increasingly easy first half, City upped the tempo for 15 minutes at the start of the second half and then closed the game back down again at 2-0. This in-game management saves legs for more testing challenges still to come.
A (relative) proliferation of loose passes early on may have given the home side belief they could gain at least a point from their endeavours, but Man City soon had a familiar grip of proceedings as they were ably marshalled to victory by the returning David Silva.
Manager Rating out of 10
8 -- For a manager entering the stadium that is always used as the archetypal hostile English away ground, Guardiola has succeeded in cowing the Stoke public on both occasions he has visited the Potteries as City manager.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 7 -- Scariest moment of the entire evening was provoked by Kyle Walker's misplaced back pass, which he did well to tip over his own bar. Raced out of his goal to chip capably over Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, but otherwise had little to keep him warm.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 -- Produced the only shot his own goalkeeper had to save, but made a complete mess at the opposite end when presented with a good chance to score the third. Some pacey raids up the flank in the second period.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 -- Little or nothing to do in the first half an hour. Occasionally a little hesitant in bringing the ball away, but won some good tackles and enjoyed the increased aerial threat from Peter Crouch's second half addition.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 -- Had little to do of any note at the back, but ended the game bandaged after a clash of heads with Konstantinos Stafylidis.
DF Oleksandr Zinchenko, 6 -- Early involvement with Leroy Sane promised much, but he was then nut-megged by Xherdan Shaqiri as the Stoke winger grew into the game. Stuck admirably to his guns and was rewarded by a largely incident-free second half.
MF Fernandinho, 8 -- Straight back into his stride, despite taking a heavy early hit from Badou Ndiaye. Wonderful ball to Gabriel Jesus helped set up Silva's second goal and his inclusion ahead of Ilkay Gundogan made an immediate difference to how City's deep midfield functioned.
MF David Silva, 9 -- The little Spaniard's ability to fit straight back in after his temporary absences is just another small detail in a mosaic of high standards. Took both his goals with aplomb, showing his usual awareness of space, time and opportunity. A truly unique craftsman.
MF Raheem Sterling, 8 -- Another whose return to the side underlined City's need for fast, tricky raiding down the flank. Produced a perfectly weighted ball into the middle for Silva's first and various slaloms into the danger area, one of which would have brought a superb goal but for Jack Butland's heel. Once again the target of ludicrous abuse from the home fans.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 8 -- Is traversing a period of quiet efficiency, where his energy and economy of pass serves the team perfectly. Almost caught Bruno Martins-Indi under-hit back pass and was often the first to challenge Butland. Prepared to stick his foot in as Stoke got tetchy.
MF Leroy Sane, 8 -- More than prepared to track back and happy to keep trying his luck against a jittery Stoke defence. Slaloming in from the left, his right foot has also begun to become a real threat. Optimistic shooting might have brought a goal on another occasion.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 8 -- Looked for the first time to be getting his touch back after a long injury lay-off. Wonderful pass cut out two defenders as it put Sterling through on the right for the first goal and he repeated the service with a lobbed pass to Silva for the second goal.
MF Bernardo Silva, NR -- Came on for Sterling for the last six minutes and wafted a couple of lovely left foot passes infield from the right wing.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, NR -- Came on for Jesus in injury-time.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.