Stoke V West Brom at Britannia Stadium : Match Preview

18 October 2013 06:31
Stoke V West Brom - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Hughes mounts Marko defence

Stoke boss Mark Hughes believes Marko Arnautovic became a victim of his own reputation when he was sent off on Austria duty.

Arnautovic was red-carded late on in last week's World Cup qualifier away to Sweden, which the Austrians lost 2-1, after a coming-together of heads between him and the hosts' striker Johan Elmander.

Elmander, currently on loan at Norwich from Galatasaray, went to ground in the incident, but replays appeared to show he had thrown himself to the turf theatrically and he was later quoted as saying: "I'm not proud of what I did."

Arnautovic, who has put in some bright performances for Stoke since joining from Werder Bremen in August, arrived in England with a bad-boy image - which he acknowledged this week in an interview.

He also signalled his hope to put it behind him, and when asked on Friday if he had been concerned by what he had seen from Arnautovic in last week's incident, Hughes said: "No, not at all.

"The boy Elmander is probably a little bit embarrassed about his actions that led to Marko getting sent off.

"Maybe his reputation went before him somewhat. It certainly didn't warrant a red card."

There have been various stories over the years about indiscipline on Arnautovic's part and in this week's interview, the 24-year-old admitted he has "done some wrong things".

But he also made clear his happiness with his present situation, as well as his desire, for the sake of his family, to steer clear of further negative headlines.

And certainly it seems Hughes has had no reason to complain about Arnautovic in the time he has been managing him.

Hughes said: "I think Marko, since he has been here, has impressed everybody with his attitude and application.

"He is going to be a big player for us this year. I think his ability is there for everybody to see. I think his discipline, in terms of what I ask him to do, and his attacking threat and defensive work are good.

"People possibly like to seek the bad in him.

"But I'd like to think if he keeps performing for us, then people will be more impressed with what he can produce on the field of play rather than what has gone on before, when he was a young man."

Geoff Cameron (calf) is Stoke's only doubt for the meeting with West Brom, whose boss Steve Clarke was a team-mate of Hughes' at Chelsea.

The Baggies have had some notable results of late, with their last two league games seeing them win 2-1 at Manchester United and then draw 1-1 at home with Arsenal.

West Brom head coach Steve Clarke was never close to pushing the panic button despite his side's poor start to the Barclays Premier League season.

Albion had to wait until late September to earn their first win of the campaign, having finished an impressive eighth in the table last term.

Home defeats by Southampton and Swansea had some supporters twitching and Clarke himself admitted at the time a win was needed sooner rather than later.

However, having got off the mark with a 3-0 victory against Sunderland on September 21, the Baggies have strung together a four-match unbeaten run featuring a 2-1 win away to Manchester United and an impressive 1-1 draw at Arsenal last time out.

The level-headed Scot insists it was never a major concern when the goals were not coming.

"The bad start to the season was just three games, really," he said. "Well, two games out of the three because we actually played quite well at Everton and got a point (in between the Southampton and Swansea defeats).

"It was two poor home performances but we didn't panic about it.

"We know, and have said before, that we've got a lot of players here who understand the Premier League. It's a long season and you can go three, four or five games on a bad run but also go on a three or four game good run. You just have to balance the moments and keep picking up the points."

Albion's best performances so far this season have been against so-called 'big guns' United and Arsenal but Clarke insists trips to places like Stoke, who they face on Saturday, are just as hard in their own way.

"Every game in this league is tough," he said. "This is a difficult, difficult fixture for us. Sometimes when you play against the top teams there is a little bit less pressure because nobody expects the result but we go to Stoke and people will be expecting us to get a positive result there. We do too, but it adds a little bit more pressure."

Clarke hopes to have a largely injury-free squad at his disposal for the Britannia Stadium trip.

All of his international players returned from the recent break without reporting any notable problems, with only Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano yet to return to be assessed.

Clarke, therefore, only has two definite absentees in the shape of goalkeeper Ben Foster (foot) and winger Scott Sinclair (hamstring). Matej Vydra, Victor Anichebe, Shane Long and Zoltan Gera are all available after recent injuries.

Source: PA

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