The Potters host Liverpool in their opening Premier League fixture of the 2015/16 campaign, three months after concluding the previous season with a whopping 6-1 win over the Anfield outfit.
The Reds that day looked weak, out of sorts and vulnerable to Stoke’s physicality at set-pieces and intense pressure raining down on the players from the vocal Britannia Stadium crown.
On Sunday, however, the visitors will shape up rather differently and Hughes expects a much tougher contest, with the acquisitions of Milner and Benteke notably giving them a more robust presence.
“They have gone into the market again and spent a huge amount of money and will expect a return on that investment. They need to have a better season than they did last year,” Hughes explained.
“They look a little bit more robust in terms of the type of players they have gone for – the obvious ones are Milner and Benteke – so they do look in better shape this year.”
Christian Benteke and James Milner to make the difference?
One area where Liverpool lacked presence last season was throughout their spine. The midfield was often overrun, and Raheem Sterling was often played through the middle due to a lack of other options.
Benteke and Milner – should they both start – will give Brendan Rodgers’ side more bite, a far greater presence and an intensity that may have not been there before.
Goals and assists are of course the important factors, but arguably just as key is the discipline off the ball and the ability to compete against any type of challenge, no matter how daunting physically.