The Inside Track: Stoke City

By SFC Media Wed 14 Dec Stoke vs Saints
Photo by Reuters | Stoke players celebrate

Get the lowdown on this tonight's opponents Stoke City, from Stoke Sentinel reporter Martin Spinks.

How would you assess Stoke's start to the season?

Pretty good considering they were bottom with one point from the first five games.
An easier set of fixtures has undoubtedly assisted their recovery over the past couple of months before coming unstuck (as usual) at Arsenal on Saturday.

Stoke's home form is usually strong but has been mixed, why do you think that is?

It hasn’t been as reliable as it once was for some time and the reasons are many and varied.
One problem has been breaking down teams looking to do them on the break, while we can’t pretend the atmosphere is as intimidating as it once was for visiting teams during the club’s early Premier League years.

Which players have stood out this season?

Lee Grant has been exceptional in goal after making his Premier League debut at the age of 33 and promptly proceeding to look a natural at this level.
Bruno Martins Indi has also grown in stature at centre half and looks to be a consistently reliable performer at this level.
No surprise, therefore, that the club would like to sign both loanees permanently in January.

What do you expect Stoke to achieve this season?

Given their recovery from that poor start, the aim has to be top-10 and preferably 8th or even 7th to end that sequence of 9th in the past three seasons.
Anything higher than 7th means breaking into the big six and that is surely too much to ask at this stage.

What have you made of Southampton from the outside?

Their league form appears to have been patchy, but that has come as no great surprise.
We know from experience that the Europa League can impact on Premier League form (which is why we were hoping you wouldn’t get knocked out!).
A new manager was also bound to have an effect, but it wouldn’t be the first time Southampton had taken that potential disruption in their stride.

How do you see tonight's game going?

Stoke must seize an early initiative to test Southampton’s resolve – and must certainly defend set pieces better than they did against [Graziano] Pellè here last season.
Many at this end have long admired Shane Long, so we’re just hoping he doesn’t give us anything to grudgingly admire tonight.
Have to go for a home win, with tightly-crossed fingers.

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