Bojan Krkic
Bojan Krkic scored the equaliser during the pre season friendly match between Blackburn Rovers and Stoke CityGetty

Last season

Premier League: 9th

FA Cup: Round Four

League Cup: Round Five

Top Scorer: Peter Crouch (10)

Summer's work

Chairman Peter Coates has hardly opened his wallet this summer, Mark Hughes picking up Phil Bardsley, Steve Sidwell and former Manchester United flop Mame Biram Diouf on free transfers. The headline signing of the summer was the surprise one of former Barcelona prodigy Bojan Krkic, who joined the club from Barcelona having spent last season on loan at Ajax. For £3m the Spaniard has the potential to be the bargain of the year.

Manager – Mark Hughes

After a shaky start last season - Stoke went through September and October picking up just two points and scoring only three goals - Mark Hughes steadied the ship at the Britannia and guided the Potters to some of their most attractive football in years. Using Peter Odemwingie as his focal point, Hughes lost just three games between 1 March and the end of the season. His powers of rejuvenation saw Stephen Ireland and Charlie Adam, cast offs from Aston Villa and Liverpool respectively, installed as fulcrums, while he even managed to get Steven N'Zonzi playing.

Key player – Bojan Krkic

Could Lionel Messi handle a cold, wet Wednesday night in Stoke? We could be about to find out. Kind of. Bojan was touted as the next promising graduate to come out of Barca's La Masia but never lived up to his billing at the Catalan club, despite promising performances in the shadow of Messi, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He played 24 times for Dutch league winners Ajax last season and has hit the ground running during pre-season. Hughes' ability to polish forgotten gems could pay huge dividends with Bojan.

Expectations

The problem for Hughes is the same one that faced former manager Tony Pulis: can he take Stoke any further than he has already achieved? Keeping key players like goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, Erik Pieters and Ryan Shawcross maintains defensive stability and the addition of Steve Sidwell provides a cautious presence in midfield. Odemwingie will again be an important part of the Stoke puzzle, as will the 10 or so goals Croach is likely to score. But too much could rest on the shoulders of Bojan to fire Stoke any higher than their respectable 9th place of last season.

Prediction

With a season at the Britannia now under his belt, Hughes can guide Stoke to the top half. 9th