The Welshman will struggle to keep the Potters up.
Manager job security: Well it’s Mark Hughes’ first season in charge, but then the former Manchester United and Chelsea star didn’t last long at QPR last year. Tony Pulis has been given the boot after five successive years in the Premier League so Hughes will have to show improvement or face the same fate.
Captain: Ryan Shawcross.
Last season: 13th.
Players in: Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven, £3m), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution, free – joining in January).
Players out: Michael Owen (retired), Matthew Lund (Rochdale, free), Mamady Sidibe (released), Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough, free), Matthew Upson (Brighton, free), Carlo Nash (Norwich City, free), Rory Delap (Burton Albion, free), Stefan Galinski (Boston United, free).
Aims: Avoid relegation at all costs. Stoke have taken a gamble this year by axing the tried and tested Pulis formula to attempt to move on. Hughes is lucky to have a chance to prove himself again in the top flight, but both could look very red-faced if the Potters go down.
Key player: Asmir Begovic – The club have done well to keep hold of the talented Bosnian this term and Begovic could well be the difference between relegation and staying up. If the 26-year-old can keep the goals out then simple maths says Stoke are more likely to win games. Simple theory, not so easily executed.
Needs to improve: Jermaine Pennant – Hughes is giving the winger another chance after the former Arsenal and Liverpool man was loaned out to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship last year.
At 30-years-old Pennant still has much to offer, but will need to start showing that sooner rather than later.
Big summer signing: Marc Muniesa – Stoke have been fairly quiet as yet in the transfer market but have acquired a couple of decent defensive players with the most prominent being Barca’s Muniesa.
The Catalans’ style seems completely at odds with the Staffordshire club’s physical approach, but maybe the defender can bring some Spanish spark to the side.
One to watch: Steven N’Zonzi – The midfielder impressed at Blackburn Rovers and had a solid season at the Britannia last time round. If N’Zonzi can dominate the middle of the park for Stoke then the club are in with a chance of winning some matches.
What do they need? Further squad improvement seems like a must to avoid a carbon copy of last year, with an aging team and a one-dimensional style of play not going to get the club very far.
There is no real attacking deadliness and creativity in midfield is pretty much limited to Matthew Etherington – who at 32 is not the lightning quick whippet the Englishman once was.
fanatix prediction: 19th. It will finally be the year when the relegation places catch up on the Potters and both Stoke and Hughes will face the prospect of being worse off in 12 months time then when they started.