Stoke City kick off their 2016-17 Premier League campaign with a tricky away game against Middlesbrough who will be keen to make their mark in the top tier after their seven-year absence. Mark Hughes has to be careful while approaching the game as Aitor Karanka’s side look pretty strong following the series of signings they made during the summer.
The Potters are on the back of three successive ninth-placed finishes in the last three years and now it’s time for them to take the next step and challenge for European football. Hughes has worked his magic in during his time at the club bringing in quality players and changing the whole philosophy of the team but failure to make their way into the top-six for another season would be a setback for the ambitious club.
Stoke City are heading to the season after a poor pre-season where they could labour just a single win. The arrival of Joe Allen from Liverpool was a real coup as he was named in the Euro 2016 Team of the Year. He’ll add some creativity to midfield but Stoke City are yet to bring a quality striker which could prove to be costly for them.
Here is the predicted Stoke City lineup against Boro.
Jack Butland missed the closing stages of the last season with an injury and that also made him miss the flight to France for the Euros. The young keeper will be keen to start the season on a real high. Glen Johnson is doubtful for the game which means Phil Bardsley will start in the right-back position. Ryan Shawcross and Philipp Wollscheid are likely to be the centre-back pairing against Boro while Eric Pieters is an assured starter in the left-back position.
Stoke’s midfield pairing will be exciting this season with the all-round ability of Gianelli Imbula partnering midfield maestro Joe Allen in the middle of the park. The two players complement each other perfectly and we have to wait and watch how the duo fare this season.
Marko Arnautovic is doubtful for the game with a minor back injury but we expect him to start the game anyway on the left flank. Bojan Krkic is likely to start as the number ten while Xherdan Shaqiri starts on the right flank.
Stoke City desperately need a striker this summer who can be an upgrade on Joselu, Diouf and veteran Peter Crouch. As things stand, Mame Diouf should get the nod as the focal point of the attack.