Super Sunday. Seriously, check the Radio Times.
The general consensus over the summer was that Mark Hughes’ Stoke would be spending the 2013/14 season scrapping around in the league’s lower reaches, while Norwich could gatecrash the top half thanks to their exotic new signings. Yet, with five games gone, it looks more likely it’ll be the other way round.
- Tranmere 0-2 Stoke (LC)
- Arsenal 3-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 0-0 Man City (Prem)
- West Ham 0-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 3-1 Walsall (LC)
- Watford 2-3 Norwich (LC)
- Norwich 0-1 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Tottenham 2-0 Norwich (Prem)
- Norwich 1-0 Southampton (Prem)
- Norwich 6-3 Bury (LC)
The Potters will have been pleased with what’s been a relatively solid start to the campaign, beating Crystal Palace and West Ham, drawing with Manchester City, and playing well in defeat to Liverpool and Arsenal.
Norwich, on the other hand, have endured a stuttering start. They have scored just once in four league games since their opening day 2-2 draw with Everton, and sit just above the relegation zone.
Stoke will be fully expecting to pick up another three points on Sunday, as THE MARK HUGHES REVOLUTION (read: passing the ball a little more and not wearing a baseball cap) continues largely unabated, not least as the Canaries have picked up just 25 points from their last 26 league matches.
Stoke have doubts over the fitness of defenders Erik Pieters (calf) and Marc Muniesa (groin), but otherwise have a clean bill of health.
Norwich will be without arguably their best defender in Sebastien Bassong (hamstring), although Gary Hooper could be set for his first Premier League start after scoring twice in the Canaries' League Cup win at Watford on Tuesday evening.
Key battle: Robert Huth vs Gary Hooper
Hooper’s aforementioned brace should mean he starts in Staffordshire, not least as Johan Elmander hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees (and he looks like the kind of guy who could, if he really wanted to). The former Celtic striker looked far busier than the Swede, and impressed in his brief cameo against Aston Villa last week.
He’ll have a difficult time against Robert Huth. The German is one of the Premier League’s most experienced defenders and is more than just the uncultured lump he’s sometimes portrayed as – he can tackle too.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 1-0 Norwich (Prem, Apr 13)
- Norwich 1-0 Stoke (Prem, Nov 12)
- Stoke 1-0 Norwich (Prem, Mar 12)
- Norwich 1-1 Stoke (Prem, Aug 11)
- Norwich 0-1 Stoke (Ch, Mar 08)
Despite having both been around the managerial block a few times, Chris Hughton and Mark Hughes have only gone toe-to-toe twice.
Hughton’s Newcastle were held to a 0-0 draw by Hughes’ Fulham in November 2010 – the following month, Hughton was sacked. Hughton’s Norwich then drew 1-1 with Hughes’ QPR in August 2012 – three months later, Hughes was sacked.
We’re not sure what this means, exactly, but given Hughton is already reportedly under pressure from his own board and fans, he looks the more likely to be gone by Christmas.
Facts and figures
- No team has hit the woodwork more often than Stoke this season (four times) in the Premier League.
- Norwich have gone 202 minutes without scoring; the longest current run in the Premier League.
- Each of the past five games between Stoke and Norwich have seen fewer than three goals scored.
- Stoke’s average possession figure of 48% is the 11th highest in the Premier League this season. Their previous five seasons have seen them finish 20th, 20th, 20th, 20th and 17th in this category.
- Stoke have the best long ball accuracy in the Premier League this season (41%).
- Norwich have seen only two opposing players booked in the Premier League this season, fewer than any other side.
- Despite their poor form, Norwich have one more point (4) than they did at this stage last season (3) in the Premier League.
- But this is the first time Norwich have lost more than two of their opening five top-flight games since 1990/91 (have played seven full seasons since then).
- Stoke have gained seven points from four goals this season (1.75 pts per goal), only three teams have managed a better return.
- Only two of Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s 11 shots (inc. blocked) this season have been on target.
Stoke to crank up the pressure on Hughton with a third win in six. 1-0.