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Hughes has high hopes for Bojan


Bojan Krkic, pictured, has won praise from Stoke boss Mark Hughes

Bojan Krkic, pictured, has won praise from Stoke boss Mark Hughes

Bojan Krkic, pictured, has won praise from Stoke boss Mark Hughes

Stoke boss Mark Hughes hopes Bojan Krkic can follow the lead of fellow Spaniard and ex-Barcelona man Cesc Fabregas by developing into an established Barclays Premier League star.

Forward Bojan has made an impressive start to life in English football following his summer switch to the Potters from Barca, emerging as the most exciting element of the Staffordshire outfit's attack.

And the season so far has also seen some hugely accomplished performances from Fabregas, the former Arsenal midfielder who secured a return to the Premier League in June by leaving Barcelona for Chelsea.

Hughes - once a player for the Catalan club himself - can see similarities between the two.

And ahead of Stoke's Barclays Premier League home clash with leaders Chelsea on Monday, the Welshman said: "Fabregas has been a top player for a long time, but in the future, who knows how good Bojan can be?

"Nobody knows that at the moment, but we are all encouraged by his ability.

"Fabregas is a player I have a great deal of respect for. We had a little set-to one year, but I was really impressed by his behaviour after and I have a lot of time for him as a person and as a player.

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"So I feel there are also similarities between their personalities.

"They are both outstanding players and humble young men as well."

The "set-to" Hughes referred to came in 2007 after an FA Cup tie between the Blackburn side he was managing at the time and Fabregas' Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, a turgid 0-0 draw.

Fabregas was said to have made a comment to Hughes at the final whistle questioning how a former Barcelona player could employ such negative tactics in a game.

But having been initially outraged, Hughes was then impressed that Fabregas apologised to him for the run-in.

Recalling the incident, Hughes said: "I don't think I had any strikers, so I just parked the bus basically.

"He (Fabregas) wasn't happy, but he actually hung around until after I had done all my press to apologise, which showed class."

Bojan sustained a hip injury in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace but has trained this week and Hughes expects him to be available to face Chelsea.

Defender Marc Muniesa has recovered from the hamstring complaint which prevented him from being involved in the Palace match, while Hughes is optimistic a knee problem picked up by Stephen Ireland will not rule the midfielder out of Monday's contest.

Thibaut Courtois should be fit to return for Chelsea.

The Belgium goalkeeper has missed the Blues' last two matches with a muscular injury and manager Jose Mourinho expects him to return at the Britannia Stadium.

Didier Drogba should overcome an ankle injury sustained in the Capital One Cup win against Derby, while defender Kurt Zouma is available for selection after suffering a head injury on Tuesday.

Boss Jose Mourinho underlined the need for referee Neil Swarbrick to control the game.

"I like [the test of going to Stoke]," he said. "I like, but it's no problem with a good referee that can understand what is aggressivity, or when the aggression finishes and start the rules of the game. No problem at all.

"We need a good referee, yes. I think we need a good, experienced referee who can understand exactly that.

"What happened in both boxes in this kind of matches needs important decisions.

"What is aggressivity and what goes beyond, go beyond the rules of the game. That is important, but I like it, yes."

The referee's performance was a theme Mourinho kept revisiting, from being asked about Courtois dealing with crosses to and whether Hughes' side is as aggressive as that of the Tony Pulis era.

"We have our own identity," the Chelsea boss said. "We want to play football.

"We play beautiful football and that's what we want to do, but we can compete with physicality.

"That's no problem for us. The referee is there and I'm not worried because the referee is there."

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