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Stoke City: Could the Potters Be Stuck in the Relegation Fight This Season?

WIGAN, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Peter Crouch of Stoke City celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Stoke City at DW Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

Ever since their entrance into the Premier League in the 2008-09 season, Stoke City have been a consistent club that has earned the respect of many around England.

In their fourth season in the top flight, the Potters have finished no higher than 11th, but they have also finished no lower than 14th place.

The 14th-place finish that the club ended with last season was aided by a crowded Europa League schedule, with play beginning in July.

For the 2012-13 season, the Potters were predicted to have a better season under manager Tony Pulis because the stress of the European calendar was off their backs.

Pulis has brought in two American internationals, Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu. Charlie Adam and Michael Owen have also been transferred in as an attempt to bolster Pulis' squad.

However, there are some signs that Pulis and company could be headed back to the Championship after five seasons as well.

The signs of a possible season-long struggle began to show in the preseason, as the Potters only managed two wins in seven preseason matches. The other five results were all 1-1 draws.

When the Premier League season started last month, the Potters were given a favorable schedule. Their first three matches were against Reading, Wigan and Arsenal at their home fortress, the Britannia Stadium.

All signs were pointing forward going into the season, but the Potters have only managed a draw in each match so far.

The club were also knocked out of the Capital One Cup in the second round in a home match against Swindon Town back in August.

As Saturday's home match with defending champions Manchester City approaches, there is a high level of concern for the club as their schedule begins to get more difficult.

After the match with City, the fixture list has Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and a streaking Swansea City club, all in the next four matches.

Another concern from Stoke fans is who will be the goal scorers for the club this season.

Last season, Pulis' club was were dead last in goals scored with only 36 goals. Still, they managed to survive as they gained 29 of their 45 points at home.

The goal-scoring problem has not been addressed, as the Potters brought in players to solidify their defense and midfield during the summer.

Owen, who is now 32, is headed towards the end of his career and only played a total of 31 Premier League matches in his last three seasons at Manchester United.

The two main strikers in the squad are Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones, who both had disappointing seasons last year.

If the forwards in the lineup remain unable to score, then the pressure will be on the defense and midfielders to hold opponents to draws.

The new additions to the squad did bolster the depth of the team, but Cameron is playing his first season in Europe, Adam had a horrible season at Liverpool last year and Edu needs to prove himself outside of Scotland, where he spent the last four seasons with the Rangers.

If the Potters fail to get any points out of their next four matches against big-time opposition, and if they are unable to win the matches they should win against the likes of Reading and Wigan, then it could be a long season for the fans at the Britannia Stadium.

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