Manchester: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini hopes the international break hasn't ruined his side's early-season momentum.
City started the season with two wins over Southampton and QPR and a hard-fought draw against Liverpool at Anfield sandwiched in between.
The Premier League champions now face a tough away trip to Stoke straight after the inconvenient international break, which saw many of his players travel across the world to play for their countries.
Mancini's men, who also face a daunting trip to Spain to face Real Madrid on Tuesday in the Champions League, had their first training session as a full group following the break on Friday as City's transfer deadline day signings finally got the chance to work their new colleagues.
"Friday is the first training that we all did after the international break. We don't have any players with injury," Mancini said on Friday.
"But it is always the wrong time for us. We have a lot of players, some that are tired.
"After the international break every game is difficult, we had six or seven players here at the training ground who did some work but every game after the break is difficult."
The physicality of Stoke will also provide a challenge for Mancini's side, but while some managers have criticised Tony Pulis's team for their aggressive long-ball approach, the City boss is full of praise for his opposite number.
City have drawn their last three games at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League, so Mancini knows his side are in for a tough challenge on Saturday.
"We need to think only about Stoke, we never win there, difficult pitch but it's better that we have this game now rather than at the end of the year," Mancini said.
"I think they have good players, this year they brought in new players. They are very strong, tall, but with this kind of football they are always in the Premier League and for them that is important."
Mancini also called for the referee at Saturday's game to look after his players.
"They are good players with experience. We have experience for this, we know it will be a tough game," he said.
"I think that it is important that the referee does his job."
Matija Nastasic, the defender who signed from Fiorentina in late August, may not be ready to make is debut against Stoke, but midfielder Javi Garcia is set to make his first appearance in City colours after his switch from Benfica.
"The new signings are okay," Mancini said. "Garcia is okay but Nastasic only had his first session on Thursday with us after the international break so we will see."