History repeated itself yet again at the Britannia as the luckless Blues came away with a 1-1 draw for the third year running.
It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for the champions who had to come from behind to share the spoils and remain unbeaten this season.
Manchester enjoyed the bulk of possession but this was an all too familiar episode in this particular tale of two cities.
The bulk of possession belonged to Mancini’s men but they couldn’t make the most of it partly due to some poor final passes and choice of ball and partially due to some fine goalkeeping by Bosnian Asmir Begovic.
Garcia could have been an even bigger hero on his first appearance but for the width of the post and the outstretched fingers of Stoke’s last line of defence.
Despite enjoying a whopping 69% possession in the opening 45 minutes the Blues fell behind to a typical Stoke goal bundled in after a melee from a corner, with a suspicion of handball, by Peter Crouch in the 14th minute – almost a case of the sublime to the ridiculous given his stunner in this fixture last season.
The equaliser came in direct fashion from Spaniard Garcia who expertly glanced home a Carlos Tevez free kick. It was case of doing a Stoke on the home side.
The Blues ought to have had more joy before the half time cuppa (isotonic energy replacement drink) but Begovic saved well from both Maicon and Balotelli.
Much of the build-up to the game revolved around new boys and they all played their part in an entertaining enough opening to the contest.
Mancini had a quartet of fresh faces from which to choose and three of them figured. As expected former Real Madrid and Benfica midfielder Garcia, the deadline day capture from Portugal, got his first taste of the raw side of the English top flight as did Sinclair fresh in from Swansea.
Maicon got the nod over long distance Argentine World Cup traveller Pablo Zabaleta in the right back slot and with his vision now restored to full health a well-rested Mario Balotelli was recalled partner Tevez in attack.
A high powered bench included David Silva, Edin Dzeko and, returning from injury, Gareth Barry. Richard Wright was amongst the subs, too, but Sergio Aguero didn’t quite make it despite returning to training 24 hours before kick-off.
Mancini clearly had one eye on future engagements in his team selection with James Milner’s legs rested after tough stints for England and Matija Nastasic also given time to recover from a hectic international ‘break’ – a misnomer if ever there was one.
Stoke’s preparations for the visit of the champions centred largely on the arrival of former Liverpool, Madrid and United forward Michael Owen.
Part of the Britannia’s new ‘England’ striking partnership, Owen spent part of the build up to this match in a television studio recording Mr and Mrs. In the day job there he simply missed the boat – remaining on the bench until the 89th minute.
The second half was more stretched than the first but only City’s own lax passing causing them trouble at the back. At the other end the Blues were without the blessing of lady luck who’d decided to visit somewhere else.
In a frantic finale Begovic spread himself expertly to deny Yaya Toure, then grabbed Garcia’s header after it hit the post to deny Manchester a first win at Stoke since 1999. Ryan Shawcross cleared off the line from Edin Dzeko deep into injury time.
It was ultimately a little disappointing but draws at Liverpool and Stoke last season didn’t prevent the title from being landed so heads will be high heading for Madrid.