It’s going to be a tough six weeks or so for Stoke. Not only does December provide a busy schedule as always, but January features Premier League games, the third round of the FA Cup and, of course, a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final tie.
That would be difficult for anyone, but considering the level of opponents it’s even harder. The next three teams to visit the Brit are Man City, Manchester United and Palace, with away trips to West Ham and Everton on the way also. January provides a trip to high-flying Leicester, a visit from Arsenal and two ties against Liverpool. Tough, right?
Strangely enough, the majority of Stoke fans would agree they feel more comfortable playing these type of games with the pressure off than fixtures against the likes of Watford, West Brom, Villa and Norwich, whom we have struggled at home against in recent years.
It seems to take a game against a good side to get Stoke going, and games against those you are expected to beat tend to be the downfall.
The good news is the squad here is the best in years, and there is plenty of room to rotate during the busy period and bring in players of similar ability to those you are taking out.
Players such as Stephen Ireland, Peter Odemwingie, Steve Sidwell and Joselu are struggling to make the bench, which speaks volumes of the squad that Mark Hughes has gathered since taking over as manager.
These are the sort of challenges that you should relish mind, and the team certainly has enough talent to pick up a healthy number of points from these games. It’s important to put the cup to one side until after Christmas though, and for now focus on picking up some much needed league points. When those cup games come, what an opportunity it will be.
It’s the first time a Stoke side has reached this stage since winning the competition in 1972, and whoever we drew it was going to be a tough tie. This Liverpool side is scoring goals for fun, but it’s too early to judge the tie because we have no idea what form either side will be in come January.
Onto this weekend now though, and Manchester City visit the Brit for an early kick-off. This sort of game is right up Stoke’s street; early kick-off, live on Sky, full house and the atmosphere will be electric.
Without doubt City have better quality than us, but on the day if the Potters turn up then they’ll be well within a chance of getting something from the game.
The return of the likes of David SIlva and Sergio Aguero to the squad alongside the quality of De Bruyne, Sterling and Co will without doubt provide a tough test, and it’s important Stoke defend well, but get that balance where they use their quality going forward as well.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Potters get on through this period, and every fans’ expectations will be different, but it’s safe to say that Hughes and his side will give it a good go.