Newcastle United v Stoke City: Hughes confident of St James' Park revenge
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is confident his side are in a good position to avenge last season's humiliating 5-1 loss at Newcastle United when they visit St James' Park on Sunday.
Hughes was sent from the sidelines in the humbling back in December 2013 in which his side finished the game with nine men.
The Welshman was still able lead Stoke to their best Premier League finish in the last campaign as they edged out Newcastle by a point to claim ninth place.
With 32 points enough to take them to 10th after 23 games of this season, Hughes is backing his side to raise the benchmark this time around.
"I think we are eight to 10 points better off than we were this time last season. That is hugely encouraging for us," Hughes said.
"We want to improve even further and we are in a better position now to go on and beat last year's tally. We are where we hoped to be.
"We have bigger targets and bigger ambitions this season. We are moving along quite nicely, but there is still a lot of work ahead.
"Newcastle have had a change in manager and they had a good performance and result last time out. It won't be easy going up there.
"We are playing well at the moment, though, and there is no reason why we can't go there and record a positive result."
Newcastle interim head coach John Carver earned his first win since taking over from Alan Pardew as they cruised to a 3-0 success at Hull City last weekend.
Carver's men have disappointed in their last two home games, however, drawing 3-3 with Burnley before slumping to a 2-1 defeat against Southampton.
And Carver is keen to change their recent home form and ensure that St James' Park is an intimidating arena for visiting teams.
"We've had a some work on the training ground this week and now want to go back to St. James' Park and make this place a fortress," Carver said.
Paul Dummett is back from a hamstring injury for Newcastle, but Carver revealed that the game will come too soon for Siem de Jong (thigh) and Rolando Aarons (hamstring).
Midfielder Cheick Tiote will play for Ivory Coast in Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final, and goalkeeper Rob Elliot (thigh), Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Ryan Taylor (knee) are all on the sidelines.
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross is out for up to three weeks with a back injury, while Erik Pieters (groin) is not yet fit.
Hughes is hopeful that Jon Walters (knee) will be able to feature, but Peter Odemwingie remains unavailable with a knee issue of his own.