Time then again for the FA Cup.
City revisit the Potteries on Saturday for a match with a Stoke side bristling with intent after a recent run of poor results. Tony Pulis's bitter comments after his side caved in at the Etihad in the league on New Year's Day still resonate and his team will no doubt be more of a match for his "expensive" opponents when playing on its own patch.
Stoke represent the kind of elbows and knees experience that the Blues might have experienced from a typical away tie in the early rounds of the competition anyway. That the pointy body parts come with the experience and guile of Premiership footballers makes them worth watching even more closely.
Not at the Britannia does Pulis's fabled 220 million pound difference often exist. It is one of the mysteries of football how this can happen, but happen it does, time after time. Stoke at home do not display any great economic deficit, while Stoke away are often pretty close to bankrupt.
- Aguero: Best is yet to come for City
City's cup experience in the Potteries is not extensive, but those even with short memories will not have forgotten that Pulis's side managed to dispose of City a mere three seasons ago in a replay that delivered two very late goals and two more, both to Stoke, in extra time. A year later, City put the record straight at Wembley on a sun-drenched May afternoon that will live long in the memory. But further north than London, Stoke have proved a tough nut to crack.
One has to travel right back to the 70s for the only other (relatively) modern day meetings with the Potters in this competition. A 1-0 defeat in 1976 in front of a heaving crowd of 38,000 at the old Victoria Ground and a thrilling 3-2 win for City at Maine Road three years earlier with the golden trio of Summerbee, Bell and Marsh on target for the Blues.
Stoke in those days was a fearsome away day, but not for the same rough and tumble reasons as today. With Gordon Banks in goal and talented stars such as Alan Hudson, Dennis Smith, Geoff Salmons, Geoff Hurst, Terry Conroy and the arch goal-scorer Jimmy Greenhoff, the Potters were a real force to be reckoned with in those halcyon days of the mid-seventies. Indeed 1972 heralded their only trophy success to date when they defeated Chelsea 2-1 to bring home the League Cup.
City have been to the Potteries more recently than that in the Cup, but not to play Stoke. A 1991 tie at Vale Park brought City face to face with Stoke's eternal rivals from Burslem, just down the road. Port Vale gave a good account of themselves that day, pushing City all the way until Clive Allen appeared from the bench and scored with his very first touch of the ball, a header from a left wing corner. I was in the Main Stand that day, crushed in alongside a man doing a high volume commentary for Port Vale videos. He wore a cap as flat as his voice and offered me scolding hot coffee from his flask at half time. The cup sometimes brings the most unlikely figures into your life.
As ever, Saturday's match produces a number of intriguing connections. Defensive stalwarts Dave Watson and Mike Doyle both ended their careers at the Victoria Ground after heroic City careers. Alan Ball managed both sides and famously lost his job, falling dramatically on his own sword, the day after a limp and lethargic defeat away at Stoke.
Indeed, Stoke's current manager has plenty of previous with City in knock-out situations too. Pulis was the manager of Gillingham the day City very nearly killed us all, in the Wembley rain for a place in the 2nd division in 1999. That playoff final still ranks proudly alongside Aguero's cataclysmic finish last May as City's two most astonishing moments in modern history and you can be sure Pulis remembers it well too.
Nobody in the near 5,000 travelling army that will descend on the Potteries tomorrow to cheer on the Blues will mind if City once again ram home a last gasp decider to progress towards the latter stages of the world's oldest and most charismatic cup competition.
Time then again for the FA Cup.