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League Cup Preview: Stoke v Portsmouth

Hughes' charges have made a slow start to their Premier League campaign, losing at home to Aston Villa and then only just salvaging a late point against a Hull City side which had been reduced to 10 men early on.

With a daunting trip to Manchester City coming up next weekend, Hughes is well aware of the need to get his players firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later ahead of the second-round clash against Andy Awford's League Two side.

"At the end of the day, we've taken an away point, which is something we didn't do too many times on our travels last season, so to get that in our first away game, I'd suggest is a good sign - but we're an honest group and we know we can do better than we did," he said after the KC Stadium stalemate on Sunday.

"The tempo of our passing and the accuracy of our passing wasn't as good as we have been in pre-season even, certainly not to the standard we were producing at the end of last year, so we're not quite where we were at when we finished at the back end of last season.

"It's understandable to a certain extent, as we're only two games in, but I had hoped that we'd be up to speed by now. But we've got two games this week, which will help in that regard, so it's about making sure we get down to the fundamentals.

"It's the old cliche; get back to the basics, understand what's required at home and away and then execute them and make sure that you perform as an individual and a team. Here we were a little bit out of sorts, but we've still been able to take something out of the game, which we're pleased with."

Glenn Whelan took a bang on the foot and is struggling for Portsmouth's visit to the Britannia Stadium, but Peter Crouch could be in line for a first start of the campaign against his former club after twice coming off the bench this term.

Portsmouth are flying high in League Two following a hat-trick of wins in the fourth tier and beat Peterborough United in the first round of this competition, but Stoke made it through three rounds last season before going out to Manchester United and Hughes would no doubt like another decent cup run.