Premier League season preview: Stoke City

Mark Hughes time at QPR was pretty lamentable. Photo: PA

Last season: 13th

Stoke City players tucked into leftover turkey on Boxing Day last year dreaming of European football, after a convincing 3-1 win over Liverpool stretched their unbeaten league run to nine matches.

The victory left them two points behind Arsenal and five adrift of Spurs in fourth spot heading into the new year. Unfortunately, for Potters fans, it proved to be a new year from hell.

Over-indulgence during the festive period, perhaps, dire football and a touch of complacency, they lost ten of their first 13 Premier League matches in 2013. Tony Pulis must have prayed that his budget baseball cap hid his constant despair.

The victory which all but sealed Stoke's top-flight survival eventually arrived at rock bottom QPR, a club taken towards relegation by new Potters boss Mark Hughes. Despite such a dreadful run of results, there were few surprised faces when Stoke came away from Loftus Road with three points.

Sparky's reign in West London was simply embarrassing. Presented with an open cheque book by every manager's dream chairman, Tony Fernandes, he used it to transform QPR into one of the worst teams in Premier League history. Hughes spent millions tying up veteran has-beens to lengthy, lucrative contracts. Only he knows what really happened there.

That must be worrying for Stoke fans who were hoping for a young manager to arrive advocating pretty football, with a track record of spending wisely in the transfer market. They can only hope that Hughes has learnt from his awful mistakes.

The good news is that Stoke have much more Premier League experience than Hughes was presented with when he first joined QPR, coupled with a much happier dressing room. Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa appear to be shrewd acquisitions, but there will need to be plenty more in order to avoid another brush with relegation this season.

In: Erik Pieters (PSV, £3.6m), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free)

Out: Michael Clarkson, Rory Delap, Matthew Gledhill, Jadan Hall, Matthew Lund, Andrew Musungu, Carlo Nash, George Rigg, Mamady Sidibe, Matthew Upson, Dean Whitehead (All released), Michael Owen (Retired)

For some reason Jermaine Pennant has been offered another chance at Stoke. Credit: PA

Player to watch: Marc Muniesa

After tying up a deal for PSV's Erik Pieters, Stoke persuaded Spanish Under-21 international Marc Muniesa to join from Barcelona B. Comfortable in possession and surprisingly versatile, Muniesa's preferred position is in central defence although he can also operate as a full back if needed. On paper, he is the ideal partner for captain Ryan Shawcross, much like Ricardo Carvalho's style complimented John Terry perfectly during Chelsea's dominant top flight days.

Something to Prove: Jermaine Pennant

Pennant's career as a Premier League footballer appeared to be numbered a few months ago. He was released by Stoke at the end of a season he spent being jeered by Wolves fans, as he struggled for form during a three month loan spell. Mark Hughes offered the former Arsenal man a lifeline with a new one year contract in June. "He's been given another opportunity here," said Hughes in July, always keen to point out the obvious.

Predicted finish: 13th

Title odds: 4,000/1

Your view: Is Mark Hughes the man for the job? Who do you want to sign?

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@itvfootball small club with a siege mentality. Should do ok. To many ego's at qpr. Did well with wales & blackburn, low expectations.

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@itvfootball impressed so far but desperatly need 1 if not 2 strikers & another winger wouldnt go amiss, if we dont could struggle