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OFFICIAL club website of stoke city

In Profile: German Opposition

STOKE CITY will face four German teams over the course of pre-season as Mark Hughes prepares his first team squad for the 2014/15 Premier League season.

Whilst based in the district of Traunstein on the German/Austrian border, the Potters will take part in three games during a 12-day stay.

Borussia Monchengladbach are City's opening opposition and following their sixth place finish in last season's Bundesliga, it'll be a testing first game back for the team.

Die Fohlen, or The Foals, have enjoyed a renaissance under Swiss manager Lucien Favre with a second European campaign under his stewardship now confirmed.

Taking the Borussia hotseat in February 2011, he staved off their relegation worries with a play-off victory over Bochum and began the following campaign with a surprise 1-0 win against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

That win, Borussia's first over Munich for 16 years, was a sign of their season to come and by the end of 2011/12 a dramatic rise in their fortunes was compounded with a fourth place finish.

Champions League qualification was now theirs, but the electrifying form of Marco Reus had alerted the big teams with Borussia Dortmund stumping up €17.1 million for his services.

His big money replacement was Luuk de Jong - who spent the second half of last season on loan at Newcastle United - but he couldn't fire them to victory against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League Play-Off Round.

A European campaign in the Europa League was still enjoyed though, and after navigating their way past Limassol, Fenerbache and Marseille, they faced Lazio in the Round of 32.

A 3-3 home draw was followed by a 2-0 defeat in Rome to knock them out of the competition, but they still managed to finish in eighth place in the Bundesliga despite the obvious distractions.

Last season didn't get off to the best of starts when they were knocked out of the German Cup on penalties by fourth-tier Darmstadt, but they soon recovered and even went on a six-game winning streak in the autumn.

Key players during the campaign included goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has since agreed to join Barcelona this summer, right back Tony Jantschke, midfielder Christoph Kramer - a member of Germany's World Cup squad and Brazilian Raffael, who netted 15 goals from midfield.

1860 Munich, meanwhile, are Bayern's lesser known rivals who also call the Allianz Arena home.

A second-tier team following relegation from the Bundesliga in 2004, their golden era was in the 1960s when they won both the German championship and cup.

A turbulent 2013/14 season saw Alexander Schmidt dismissed at the end of August and his successor Friedhelm Funkel shown the door in April, as 1860 finished 12 points off the play-offs in seventh spot.

Well-travelled Dutchman Ricardo Moniz has been put in charge for next season, and is hoping to galvanise the likes of former Crystal Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly and ex-Fulham defender Moritz Volz to make a serious bid for promotion.

The tour will then be rounded off by a fixture against Schalke 04, arguably City's toughest test of the trip.

Jens Keller's side finish behind only Champions League Semi-Finalists Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in another good season for Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues).

A club with real history following seven German championships, five German Cups, one UEFA Super Cup and a UEFA Cup win, they were runners-up in the Bundesliga as recently as 2010.

Their last three campaigns have produced European football with Schalke reaching the Semi-Finals of the Champions League themselves in 2011, only to be knocked out by Manchester United.

The Quarter-Finals of the Europa League followed the season after, whilst last season saw them back in the Champions League as they finished runners-up to Chelsea in the group stages before bowing out to eventual winners Real Madrid.

Former Real and AC Milan striker Klass-Jan Hunterlaar top scored last season with 14, whilst Jefferson Farfan netted a further 12 from midfield.

Kevin-Prince Boateng will know a number of the Potters squad from his time at both Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, whilst Benedict Howedes and Julian Draxler are at the World Cup representing Germany.

The final pre-season friendly will then involve another trip back to Germany with Stoke City taking on SC Freiburg at their Mage Solar Stadion.

Whilst the self-confessed Brazilians of Breisgau only finished in fourteenth position of the 18-team Bundesliga, they did at least end Pep Guardiola's 100% start to his reign at Bayern Munich when Nicolas Hofler came off the bench to help secure a 1-1 draw.

Another team who played in Europe last season, they were eliminated at the group stages of the Europa League following games with Sevilla, Estoril and Slovan Liberec.

Freiburg's record goalscorer is current Germany manager Joachim Low, whilst they also once provided the home for current Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse.

One player in the current set-up who will be well known to Mark Hughes is his former Manchester City midfielder Gelson Fernandes.

The Swiss international played 27 times under Hughes in his first season in charge at the Etihad.

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