Opposition view: Stoke City

By Ric Turner, Wed 11 September 2013 09:40

Opposition view: Stoke CityAll you need to know about Saturday's opponents, courtesy of Martin Smith (editor of the Oatcake fanzine)

What are your expectations for this season?

We’re all hoping for a top half finish (for the first time since we got promoted in 2008) but with a new manager in charge we’ll settle for a better standard of football and not being involved in the relegation battle for the time being.

Are you happy with the manager?

It’s fair to say that Mark Hughes wasn’t a universally popular choice and some fans are still keeping their powder dry with their opinions. However, what we’ve seen so far has been very encouraging and he’s yet to put a foot wrong with the fans. He’s made a very promising start.

Who are your key players?

Our goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has been outstanding for quite some time now and we genuinely believe he’s the best keeper in the Premier League. In the outfield places it has to be Stephen N'Zonzi. When he plays well we tend to play well. He can be a moody player at times but when he’s on-song he’s fantastic to watch.

Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

Mostly, yes. A lot of us think we’re still short of a striker and given the lack of goals scored over the past two seasons we’d have slept easier if we’d brought someone in. It seems though that Mark Hughes believes Crouch or Jones can get the goals we need if they get more service from the flanks and midfield.

Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

Well we’ve got one that we hadn’t heard of before transfer deadline day – Marko Arnautovic. We got him from Werder Bremen and he’s a colourful character to say the least. An Austrian national with a Serbian background, he was a best friend of Mario Balotelli at Inter Milan, where Jose Mourinho described him as having the ‘mind of a child’. That was some time ago and he seems to have matured a bit since then. He is apparently quite quick and with an eye for goal. We’re hoping he makes his debut against you.

Your Achilles heel?

Quite simply, GOALS! We don’t score enough of ‘em and are thus always in danger if we concede. We are at least creating more chances per game, so far this season, so that’s a good sign. We do though have to start finding the back of the net more regularly than we have done for the past couple of seasons.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

David Silva or Vincent Kompany. Two quality performers who add solid consistency to their star quality. Any team in Europe would be lucky to have them in their line-ups.

What is your perception of City as a club?

Well, we used to quite like you and even considered you to be mini-rivals, as we were following each other up and down the divisions for a while. Now though you’re just another Man Utd really and the site of a few local gloryhunters suddenly popping up wearing Man City shirts means we have to dislike you even more. That should say more about these sad individuals than your club but we only need the faintest of reasons to hate anybody and that’ll do. In all seriousness though, it was a little disappointing to see a few Man City fans being as arrogant as the Man Utd fans we’d always hated for their arrogance once things turned around for you. You were far more interesting when you were perennial under-achievers. Who knows, maybe we’d be the same if it ever happened to us?

Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

Well, we’re not sure if Mark Hughes will go straight out with the team the fans think is likely to his strongest, or whether he’ll try and drip feed in the big changes. Therefore, the team I think he’ll go with this weekend is…

Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters
Wilson, NZonzi, Ireland
Arnautovic, Jones, Etherington

I’ll go for a 2-1 win for Stoke City. I always believe we’re going to win and every now and then we actually do!!!