Hughes welcomes selection dilemma
Published 20/08/2015 | 15:58
Stoke boss Mark Hughes admits things are looking exciting in terms of his team selection possibilities with Xherdan Shaqiri now available and Bojan Krkic fit again.
Winger Shaqiri, the Potters' £12million record signing, was denied the opportunity to make his debut in last weekend's 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw at Tottenham when it emerged the Switzerland international had a one-match ban to serve.
But he is now set for his bow on Saturday when Stoke take on Norwich at Carrow Road, where playmaker Bojan could make his long-awaited top-flight comeback.
The Spaniard, sidelined for the second half of last season by a knee injury, came through 90 minutes of an Under-21s game last Saturday.
Shaqiri and Bojan are regarded as key symbols of the transformation Stoke have been undergoing since Hughes took over in 2013.
And the Welshman said at his pre-Norwich press conference on Thursday: "I think everybody's really enthused by what may be ahead in terms of selection and the team we can put out."
Asked if Shaqiri would be involved against Norwich, Hughes said: "I would think so at some point.
"He's been very good in training and I think possibly - while we didn't initially appreciate last week that he was suspended - the fact he has had another week's training with the group is probably better for him.
"If I'd thrown him in at Tottenham after just light training sessions with us on the Thursday and Friday, then he might not have hit the heights we feel he will do.
"He's now more integrated into the group, so we think he's got a better chance of making an impact.
"With every signing there's always an element of risk, but when you shop at a different level then the guarantees are a little bit better, I would suggest.
"It is a significant amount of money for us, our record deal, but we think we've bought the right quality and the right person. I feel sure as the season goes on he'll be a big player for us."
Stephen Ireland and Joselu made useful contributions in attack as substitutes in the Tottenham match, which saw Stoke claim their first point of the season after being 2-0 down at half-time.
And taking that into account as well as the availability of Shaqiri and Bojan, Hughes has acknowledged he has "some key decisions to make" ahead of Saturday's game and the Capital One Cup second-round trip to Luton on Tuesday.
Regarding Bojan, he said: "I've had conversations with him so he knows my thinking in terms of where he is and what he needs to do.
"He's progressing really well and we're delighted with where he is.
"The 90 minutes for the under-21s was an important thing for him, but I'm mindful we've got a game on Tuesday as well, and a number of guys will be involved in that.
"Whether I involve him at the weekend or wait to give him more significant time on Tuesday, we'll just have to wait and see."
Hughes has another player back in the selection frame for Saturday in defender Marc Wilson, yet to feature for the first team this term due to an ankle complaint, while forward Jonathan Walters is expected to be fine despite having recently felt ill.
Peter Odemwingie (hamstring) and Ryan Shawcross (back) are the definite absentees.