City visit the Britannia this Saturday after what has felt like the longest international break ever. This is a fixture in which City have drawn 1-1 in each of the past four seasons (yep, that's right. And we lost the one before that!), so this will most likely be another tricky affair. City will be without David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Micah Richards, and Gael Clichy (just a minor knock, no worries). Just what we needed, a depleted backline. Oh, and there's the twist of Mark Hughes on Stoke's bench as well.
Anyways, since Stoke do not have an SB Nation blog I turned to James Whittaker, who is in charge of ESPN FC's Stoke team blog, for a closer look at The Potters ahead of tomorrow's match.
- B&B: It was a summer of change- a whole lot of change- at the Britannia this offseason. How did Stoke do in the transfer window overall? Were needs addressed properly?
JW: I think we did well, though many would disagree. We haven't had a left back in over 5 years so to sign two before pre-season had even started was very welcome indeed. Another thing we lacked was pace and creativity and in Assaidi (from Liverpool) and Marko Arnautovic from Werder Bremen those needs would appear to have been fulfilled but of course neither have played yet so the jury is still out. We missed out on getting a central striker in having been messed about by Hanover over Mame Diouf but we did manage to get Juan Agudelo on pre-contract terms but we'll have to wait until January before we see him.
- B&B: How confident are you in Mark Hughes and his tactics? How well has his system worked in the first three matches, and where in the table do you think Stoke will be at the end of the season?
JW: I'm pretty confident based on what I've seen so far. He has a huge task re-training the players to be more expressive and you could see they struggled at first but they're looking more comfortable with each passing game. We've won 3 on the bounce in all competitions so the break came at the wrong time for us and we'll be raring to go on Saturday. In terms of where I think we'll finish, I'll go for 12th, hopefully we'll be regular top ten finishers going forward but for now it's about consolidation.
- B&B: What kind of future do you foresee for the Americans at Stoke? We have already seen Geoff Cameron's impact, but what about Brek Shea, and the future transfer of Juan Agudelo?
JW: Cameron has done really well this season, though I don't see his future at full back, I've much preferred seeing him play in the middle so I hope he gets a chance there at some point this season. Shea is a strange one, we've not seen much of him at all when he's not been off the back of an injury so it's really hard to gauge what impact he'll have. Agudelo looks very exciting and looks, shall we say, very confident. The Premier League is a huge step up for him though so he'll need to be on top of his game to make an impact mid-way through our season when he arrives in January.
- B&B: Form and injury situation at Stoke currently?
JW: Form and confidence are both good after the three back to back wins. As for injuries Glenn Whelan, Jonathan Walters, and Marc Wilson all picked up knocks with Ireland and Charlie Adam also had to pull out with a bad back but all 4 trained Thursday so you'd expect they will be in contention for Saturday.
- B&B: Finally, a prediction for this weekend's clash? Where do you think the key battles will be on the pitch?
JW: I think the most important battle will be on our left side against Navas and Zabaleta. I'm interested to see who Hughes opts for over on the left, if it's Assaidi I expect Zabaleta will have a much harder afternoon and be pinned back much more than he would be if he faces Etherington. I'm quietly confident but will opt for a 1-1 draw.
Many thanks to James for his time!