View on the Visitors - Stoke City

Stoke Sentinel’s sports reporter Pete Smith lifts the lid on Saturday's visitors
Stoke Sentinel’s sports reporter Pete Smith lifts the lid on Saturday's visitors.

Stoke come into this game off the back of the 2-0 win over Manchester City and one defeat in six. It all seems to be going well at the moment?

“Absolutely, the team are hitting new heights. Against City, they tried a new formation and it clearly worked very, very well. They looked like a slick attacking side which hasn’t always been the case. There’s a real feeling that this is the best Stoke side in a generation, the likes we haven’t seen for 40 odd years.

“The result last weekend was unreal, it was certainly the crowing result of the season so far and it shouldn’t be overlooked how good they really were.”

It’s not just Stoke’s league form, but a League Cup semi-final with Liverpool to look forward to?

“Yes, and it’s something the fans are quite rightly really looking forward too. For Stoke, it has been all about avoiding relegation for a long time, and more recently getting into the top ten. The next stage upward is challenging for a trophy. They last won the League Cup back in 1972 so it’s something the fans would dearly love to win again.”

Presumably Mark Hughes is a popular figure at the Britannia?

“He can’t put a foot wrong in the fans’ eyes! People haven’t forgotten all the good work Tony Pulis did in laying the foundations, but Mark Hughes has taken them that step further. The vast majority of transfers have worked well, tactically he’s spot on and the fans are right behind him.” 
Which players have stood out for you this season so far?

“Jack Butland has been the star of the season so far, he was man of the match in almost every game right at the start. The fact we haven’t missed Asmir Begovic shows how good he really is, he’s still young too.

“Since Ryan Shawcross has returned from injury the defence has looked much more solid, they picked up a few more clean sheets too. His return to fitness and form is remarkable really considering he had major back surgery in the summer.

“Then obviously the forward trio of Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic have stolen the headlines, and rightly so. Their quality is obvious for all to see.”

Having said all that, what is Stoke’s Achilles heel?   

“In most departments they’ve been solid so far, they haven’t conceded many goals, in fact they’ve tended to concede more goals against the smaller sides, Watford and Sunderland, then the big teams.”

In all likelihood, this is the last time Stoke play at the Boleyn Ground, what memories stick out for you about this stadium?

“It has to be the 1972 League Cup semi-final which has gone down as one of the greatest League Cup games ever. West Ham won away 2-1, meaning Stoke had to come to the Boleyn Ground and get a result to progress to the final. In particular Gordan Bank’s penalty save late on from Geoff Hurst is one of the defining moments in Stoke City’s history.” 

How do you think Saturday's game will pan out?

“It’ll be a tight game; neither side will give much away so I think it’ll be a 1-1 draw.”