Preview: Norwich v Stoke

Are Stoke really the football hipster’s new club of choice? Can their fans believe they’ve signed Shaqiri? How can Norwich beat them? Dan Brigham finds out from Stoke fan and writer Elliot Hackney

Dan: Hi Elliot. So, the last time Norwich were in the Premier League, I’d probably have started this preview with a predictable joke about long balls and hoofing it. But Stoke have suddenly turned into one of the sexiest Premier League sides. Stoke fans must be in dream land. What do you make of your signings?

Elliot: There are some people now quoting us as "The Premier Leaguer hipsters", which is a world apart from our Tony Pulis side. All the signings we've made look promising and seem to be fitting in well with the current crop.

There's the obvious standout signing in Xherdan Shaqiri who we're yet to get a glimpse of and he seems like he has something to prove, and hopefully that's this weekend, which could be unfortunate for you!

Dan: It's OK, Alex Tettey will probably maim him within the first 10 minutes. Seriously though, as a Norwich fan signing someone like Shaqiri is unimaginable. As a Stoke fan it should be unimaginable too – signing Inter Milan's best player! Stoke City! It must have increased expectations for Stoke fans, so what aspirations have you got for the season?

Elliot: I'll be round Tettey's house if so…

Mark Hughes promised us a marquee signing and that he did. I was going to hold a party with Swiss rolls and Switzerland flags to celebrate. If he plays like a lot of us know he can (because we've watched 10,000 YouTube videos with awful music as research) then he will probably be our best player too. We're hoping to improve on our best finish of ninth and maybe get close to Europe, but we've got some early issues that could influence that.

Dan: You'd get to Tettey's house all angry, but then he'd disarm you with his lovely smile and make you a nice cuppa.

So what are the early issues that Stoke have? Seems your defence isn't looking quite as solid as it once was?

I can’t see us changing from our 4-2-3-1 and we’ll hopefully debut Shaqiri and Marko Arnautović as wingers for the first time

Elliot: I can't turn down someone making me a brew.

We've got a massive issue at the back as our brick wall of a captain Ryan Shawcross is out for a minimum of three months. At the moment the cover hasn't been too bad as Marc Muniesa and Geoff Cameron have played well, but we know it would be more solid with Ryan there. We're also lacking a little bit of creativity in attack, mainly because Bojan Krkic isn't fit, but that should hopefully be sorted this weekend when Shaqiri enters the fray.

Dan: Is Bojan ruled out of the game (also asking because I have him in my Fantasy Football team...)? How are you likely to set up against Norwich, and where would you say Norwich can exploit any weaknesses?

Elliot: He played for the U21s last week so at most I could see him return to the bench. If he started the game it would be as unexpected as when Matt Damon turned up in Interstellar.

I can't see us changing from our 4-2-3-1 and we'll hopefully debut Shaqiri and Marko Arnautović as wingers for the first time. If there was anywhere I could say you could exploit I'd probably say our central defence as mentioned before, just because they're not a experienced partnership.

Dan: So should Norwich fans expect to see Stoke attacking with pace down the wings, or is it a more measure build-up through the middle? And do you think your strikers have enough goals in them this season?

Elliot: If that's the wingers we go with this weekend then I'd expect that's where the majority of our play will come from. We've got Mame Diouf who managed to get 12 Premier League goals last year while being played on the wing, so hopefully now that he will be central he can improve that tally. If not we have Joselu eager to make an impact, who I'm quite excited to see.

Dan: And if all else you've got Norwich Legend Peter Crouch to come off the bench and scissor-kick a 35-yard winner.

So, from an outsiders' perspective, what do you make of Norwich and their chances this season?

Elliot: Oh I do love Crouchy, but I don't think we will see too much of him this season.

I like Alex Neil as a manager and his style, so hopefully he can keep you guys up. I think the squad you've got needs another signing or two just to add that Premier League depth, but I do like Gary Hooper and Nathan Redmond. Hopefully they'll help unlock defences and help get the results you need.

Dan: Gary Hooper is very much a bench-warmer for us, he's only really effective when playing in a two up top, and Neil rarely does that. Redmond's been sensational since the last few games of last season - something seems to have clicked for him since Neil left him out.

So let's have your score prediction for Saturday, and how you think the game will go...

Elliot: I'm going to pray that Shaqiri makes his debut and it all goes to plan. Hopefully Arnie plays at his devastating best and our wings give your full-backs a torrid time. I'm going to go with 2-1 to us.

Dan: I see goals in this (there are always goals in Norwich matches). Our full-backs like to push forward, so your glamorous wingers will hopefully have to spend plenty of time defending rather than taking advantage of the acres of space available...

My heart says 3-2 to Norwich after last week’s win, but my head says 2-2. Looking forward to it, which is something I've certainly never said about a Stoke match before.

Elliot Hackney runs a Stoke City fan channel called The Bear Pit TV. You can also follow him on twitter here @ElliotHackney