Sunday 22 July 2018

Hughes positive despite point

Mark Hughes' Stoke have lost to Liverpool and drawn with Tottenham so far this season
Mark Hughes' Stoke have lost to Liverpool and drawn with Tottenham so far this season

Stoke boss Mark Hughes is encouraged by what he has seen from his team so far this season, despite it only yielding a single point.

The Potters opened their 2015-16 Barclays Premier League campaign with a 1-0 home loss to Liverpool, then fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to draw 2-2 at Tottenham last weekend.

Hughes said ahead of Saturday's trip to newly-promoted Norwich: "In early-season games, ideally you want maximum points.

"But you take encouragement from the level of performance you're able to produce.

"Certainly against Liverpool we deserved something, and at Spurs, we should perhaps have had maximum points.

"So in terms of performance, we are quite happy. Results-wise, we feel we should probably have more points on the board, but that will come if we keep the level of performances that we've produced up to this point.

"We're encouraged by what we have done in the first two games, certainly."

Regarding the comeback at Spurs, Hughes added: "We need to build on that.

"For the second 45 minutes we were excellent - if we can replicate what we produced in that second half then we'll be more than happy because it was a top-level performance."

Twenty-four hours before the meeting with Norwich, some spice was added to the fixture with Stoke turning down a bid from the Canaries for forward Jonathan Walters.

Press Association Sport understands Norwich have seen an offer of around £1.5million for 31-year-old Republic of Ireland international Walters rejected.

The Merseyside-born player, whose current contract runs out next summer, has been with Stoke since joining them from Norwich's local rivals Ipswich in 2010.

He has made more than 200 appearances in all competitions for the Staffordshire outfit and scored 50 goals.

A firm fans' favourite, he netted 11 times for Stoke last season and has started both of their games so far this term.

But it will be interesting to see if he retains his place against Norwich - not least because Stoke now have £12million record signing Xherdan Shaqiri available and another playmaker, Bojan Krkic, back fit after long-term injury.

Record signing Shaqiri can now be selected after a one-game ban denied him his debut in the Tottenham match last Saturday - the same day Bojan completed 90 minutes for the Potters' Under-21s side as he stepped up his recovery from a long-term knee injury.

Walters himself is expected to be available despite having recently felt ill, but there is considerable competition for places these days in the Stoke attack.

Meanwhile, defender Marc Wilson could make his maiden first-team appearance of the season having shaken off an ankle complaint.

Striker Peter Odemwingie (hamstring) is still sidelined along with defender Ryan Shawcross (back).

Press Association

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