REUTERS – Stoke City’s Mark Hughes may break with the convention of not changing a winning team for Saturday’s visit to West Ham United in the Premier League.
The Midlands club and their manager received plaudits for an impressive 2-0 home win that cost Manchester City top spot last weekend after he picked a quartet of creative players up front and dropped powerful Ireland striker Jonathan Walters.
But Hughes told a news conference on Friday that Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Marko Arnautovic will not necessarily start at Upton Park.
“We looked at previous games the opposition had played, what their strengths and weaknesses were and what we could exploit and built a gameplan based on that knowledge,” he said.
“It was something I had been thinking of for quite some time and it was just about making sure we picked the right game.
“That is exactly what we are doing with the game we are preparing for this weekend.”
He was particularly pleased with their gifted Switzerland midfielder Shaqiri, whose form had been inconsistent since he signed from Inter Milan in the close season.
“Xherdan has come to a new league and, as I’ve said before, the Premier League takes players aback.
“It’s really strong, it’s a forceful league and if you’re not used to it, it doesn’t matter what level of player you are, what level you’ve played at and what clubs you’ve played for, it can be a shock sometimes.
“That was the case with Marko Arnautovic and with Bojan initially and it was maybe the same with Shaq.”
Austria forward Arnautovic joined Stoke from Werder Bremen in 2013, while Bojan arrived from Barcelona the following year.
After a difficult start to the season Stoke were in the relegation places, but winning six of the last nine games has lifted them into the top half of the table.
“We are hoping now to get that consistent level of performance over a longer period,” Hughes added.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; editing by Ken Ferris)