Team Name: Stoke City
Manager: Mark Hughes
Last Season: 9th
Who they’ve signed so far: Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover, free), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystrica, undisclosed), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free), Bojan Krkic (Barcelona, undisclosed)
Out the exit door: Michael Kightly (Burnley, undisclosed), Matthew Etherington (released), Juan Agudelo (released)
Star man: Mame Biram Diouf
The arrival of double Champions League and three time La Liga winner Bojan Krkic from Barcelona may have been the most glamorous of the summer signings, but Diouf’s return to the Premier League could pack a bigger punch.
The Senegalese forward was set to be the next big thing when at Manchester United, but after a disappointing spell at Blackburn, it wasn’t to be. A move to Hannover ensued and his resurrection began.
A tally of 26 goals in 57 appearances for the German club over two seasons show the big man knows where the net is. He will be desperate to have a big season as he looks to prove the doubters wrong.
The Stoke faithful will make do with goals like this in the coming months
Under the Radar: Steve Sidwell
With the signings of the aforementioned Bojan from Barcelona and Diouf from Hannover, it is easy for another new arrival in the Midlands to be overlooked.
Sidwell’s to keep things ticking over in the middle of the park will be key if Mark Hughes is to impose his flair-centric approach at Stoke.
He may not do anything fancy, but the flame-headed midfield can sure pick out a pass. He has averaged over 82% pass completion in four of his last five seasons.
He may not get the plaudits but rest assured he will have a say in creating many a move from deep for the pacier types ahead of him to do their damage.
Team Liability: Charlie Adam
With seven league goals from 20 starts last yeah, Adam certainly knows where the goal is, but that doesn’t look enough to stop him being eased out of things at the Britannia.
The Scot is a hark back to the Pulis era at Stoke, where the Potters had a certain notoriety about them, as physical, tough tackling, and to an extent, just plain dirty.
While six bookings during the last campaign was an improvement on the nine the previous season, the centre midfielder always looks a mistimed tackle away from a suspension.
With Mark Hughes favouring a free-flowing, open style of play, Adam could be consigned to the subs bench at the Britannia.
Title Odds: 2000/1
Best Bet: Top 10 finish @ 6/4
Our Verdict: They may have won just one game from seven in pre-season but this campaign could be a successful one for the Potters.
Mark Hughes has got his side playing some nice football, without sacrificing productivity, and with a number of decent new arrivals can push for another top half finish.
The unfashionable, yet solid core of the team, including Ryan Shawcross, Glenn Whelan and Steve Sidwell will be key in ensuring they don’t run before they can walk, but there are plenty of other sides who are in far worse positions than the Staffordshire outfit ahead of the season.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publish.
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