Make no mistake, Stoke City are in terrific form at the moment so let’s get the news you don’t want to hear out of the way first – their win over Manchester City last weekend may have been the best performance I’ve seen this season.
They were outstanding and have some serious forwards who can cause trouble and with no Winston Reid at the centre of our defence it could be a very difficult afternoon.
Mark Hughes will be bold to unleash his front three of Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic again. It remains to be seen if he goes that way.
There will be a huge responsibility on Aaron Cresswell to look after Shaqiri. If he can and does then it will make things a bit more straightforward
This is the time – after a good performance at Old Trafford – for our squad to really stand up and be counted and I will forecast a draw.
Mauro Zarate is our key player for me – he’s the guy who has now been left to offer the creative spark we need – what a long way he has travelled since this time last season.
Alex Song is of course a top player and getting fitter and we may well see Enner Valencia. One guy who looks certain to start in Michail Antonio and it’s a big step from Championship to Premier League particularly with so little game time behind him.
He’s a good player, has pace, power and will give 100 per cent. Sometimes he can be unpredictable but if the real deal turns up today he’ll be a handful.
It’s going to be tight and if we can come out with a win it will give the squad a fantastic boost. Everybody’s beating everybody this season and although I’m going for a 1-1, victory certainly isn’t beyond us.
A fascinating afternoon in prospect but we will need a top performance from the back four.