Stoke City Analysis and Opinion

It may have taken slightly longer than initially expected, but things are slowly starting to piece together for Gary Rowett and his Stoke City side in the Championship. Another spirited comeback away at Rotherham and a comfortable two-nil win at home to Bolton in midweek have been enough to suggest that performances are beginning to improve.

A win today for Rowett will cement this feeling, although they do travel to one of the in-form sides in Norwich City. The Canaries are unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions, and there is no doubt that their fans will be expecting them to make it nine on home soil.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of today’s game.

TEAM NEWS

James McClean marked his return to the squad in midweek with the assist to set up Tom Ince for Stoke’s second against Bolton in midweek, now leaving no fresh injury concerns for manager Gary Rowett to assess ahead of the trip to Norfolk.

The Potters boss also provided some positive news regarding summer signing Sam Clucas, revealing that he is out of the treatment room and back into full training. Forward Mame Diouf is also back in contention having trained during the latter parts of this week.

As for Norwich, winger Onel Hernandez is set to return from a Hernia problem picked up back in September, with the German having missed the last five games.

Captain Grant Hanley will continue to be sidelined with a thigh problem, as will midfielders Kenny McLean (ankle) and Matt Jarvis (ankle and knee) and forward Carlton Morris (knee).

ONES TO WATCH

STOKE – Tom Ince

What a couple of weeks it’s been for Tom Ince, capped off by a superb individual performance against Bolton on Tuesday night. Far and away the top performer in terms of shots with eight in total and four on target, as well as the most successful dribbles (2) and an assist for Bruno Martins Indi’s opener. With three goals in as many games, Ince will continue to be Rowett’s main attacking outlet on Saturday.

NORWICH – Teemu Pukki

Spearheading Daniel Farke’s attack so far this season, Finnish striker Teemu Pukki signed from Danish side Brøndby on a free transfer this summer. An ever-present for the Canaries, Pukki has managed five goals in 11 appearances and is currently averaging just over 2 shots per game, including four against Derby last time out. Having not scored in his last two appearances, Pukki will be aiming to be back on the scoresheet come Saturday.

PREVIOUS MEETING

You don’t have to look back too far to find the last meeting between these two sides, with both teams competing in the Premier League back in January 2016. Goals from Jon Walters, Joselu and Ryan Bennett (OG) were enough to secure a 3-1 win for then Stoke manager Mark Hughes at The bet365 Stadium.

However, if you’re looking for an all-Championship affair between the two clubs, you’d have to stretch back to March 2008, where a second-half header from Mamady Sidibe secured a vital 1-0 victory for Tony Pulis and his side at Carrow Road. The Potters would, of course, go on to be promoted as runners-up at the end of the season, with the Canaries finishing in 17th under Glenn Roeder.

PREDICTION

LINE-UP

Butland, Martina, Williams, Martins Indi, Pieters, Woods (C), Allen, Bojan, McClean, Ince, Afobe

Subs: Federici, Edwards, Shawcross, Fletcher, Etebo, Berahino, Crouch.

VERDICT

The win against Bolton in midweek was a step in the right direction for Gary Rowett with his team seemingly starting to get to grips with his desired formation and tactics. A victory away at Carrow Road would be a huge statement of intent going forward, but with the hosts in exceptional form having won five of their last six, I can see a point being the best the Potters can hope for.

Scoreline – 1-1