Premier League Preview: Stoke City

My Premier League previews continue with Tony Pulis’ Stoke now in the spotlight. After last season’s impressive 11th place finish, Stoke will be looking to break into the top ten.

           
A relatively quiet summer at the Britannia Stadium shows that Pulis has confidence in his side. Stoke haven’t made any signings of note although they are being linked with Nice’s £10 million rated striker Loic Remy. The Stoke squad is much the same as last season as the Potters look to stay in the Premier League for a another season.
           
Stoke have Danish veteran Thomas Sorensen in goal with Carlo Nash the likely substitute ‘keeper. City could do well to dip into the transfer market to buy another goalkeeper. In front of Sorensen, though, Stoke have some strong defenders. Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross look to be growing into reliable centre-backs for the club and seemed to developing a good partnership together last season. Danny Pugh and Danny Higginbotham may not be the most consistent defenders but do have experience in the Premier League. The side’s defence isn’t as strong as it should be and that could cause serious problems for Stoke this season.
In midfield, though, Stoke have a lot of creativity. Liam Lawrence is rumoured to want a move away from the club but now looks to be staying. The Irish midfielder is a valuable central midfielder to Stoke and will open up defences this season. Dean Whitehead and Glen Whelan are both strong midfielders who link the attack and defence well, while Tom Soares looks to be a big prospect for Stoke; the former Crystal Palace midfielder is strong going forward and his ability to read the game makes him a player to look out for. Rory Delap’s infamous long throw will always be an asset to Stoke as, in Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie, they have players who can cause trouble in the penalty area and latch on to balls put into the area. Stoke could also do with some pace down the wings with Matthew Etherington the only out-and-out winger in the side.
Although Tuncay Sanli has been a massive disappointment since he joined the club, Stoke do have some good forwards. Fuller and Beattie will be vital to Stoke this season as they promise goals, while Mamady Sidibe and Dave Kitson could also score goals as well. Stoke’s main problem, though, will be stopping goals rather than scoring them.
Where will they finish?: 11th
Official top ten finish odds: 11/4 (Bet365)
Star man: Liam Lawrence
One to watch: Tom Soares
Main weakness: Weak in defence and no pace on the wings
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