Hughes has strength and style at Stoke to right Man City record
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | December 3, 2015
Since being sacked by Manchester City almost six years ago, Mark Hughes has won just one match in eight attempts against his former employers.
It’s by no accident that it came at current club Stoke City away to the Etihad outfit last season – courtesy of a stunning Mame Biram Diouf goal, coupled with an outstanding rearguard action. Coral rate the Potters as 17/4 chances to repeat victory on home soil on Saturday lunchtime.
Two draws and five defeats from the other seven show the gap in resources Hughes has had to try and bridge in his work with Fulham, then an especially mercenary bunch at QPR, and now his Britannia boys.
How Hughes has advantage over other bosses
A distinguished playing career – taking in Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus Manchester United and Chelsea among others – means Hughes has always been able to attract players to less fashionable teams that he’s managed. Nowhere have the rewards of this been reaped more than by the Potters.
Building on previous signings during his two-and-a-half years in charge of Stoke, Hughes has added increasingly high-profile names to his roster. Austrian attacker Marko Arnautovic was arguably the marquee arrival of his first campaign in the Potteries (2013/14), followed by the bargain buy of Spain cap Bojan Krkic last term, and acquisitions of Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri this summer.
Synthesising foreign flair players in attack like these with the hard-working spine and defence established by Potters predecessor Tony Pulis proved fruitful in that 1-0 Etihad upset in August 2014. It will continue to serve the Midlands men well.
A disappointing loss at Sunderland last time out in the Premier League apart, Stoke have lost just one other outing since the start of September. That partisan Potters support have a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final against Liverpool to look forward to in the New Year.
Improvement down to recruitment
Being in elite company with the Reds, Man City and Everton at the business end of a cup competition is further evidence of the progress made under Hughes. Pulis did steer Stoke to the 2011 FA Cup final, albeit with a relatively easy run compared to his successor knocking out holders Chelsea en route in the other domestic competition to date.
Netherlands international winger and attacking midfielder Afellay scored his first Potters goal in the Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Sheffield Wednesday. He should be aiming to kick on from this in a bid to rediscover the form that prompted Barcelona to buy him from PSV Eindhoven.
Getting more consistent and extra end product from the flair players is how Hughes can take Stoke to the next level, with a top six finish a 40/1 shot. That is a big price but what the squad feel they are capable of, according to long-serving Potters player Glenn Whelan.
Replicating a spot in the top half for the third successive season will definitely be the minimum requirement for Stoke, who are available at tasty 10/3 odds to maintain themselves in that area under Hughes. Should the Potters repeat their Ethihad encounter at home to Man City, that price is sure to shorten.