MARK HUGHES believes that his players are in 'the right place at the right time' as they prepare to raise the curtain on the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season against Liverpool tomorrow lunchtime.
The Welshman, who arrived at the Britannia Stadium as Tony Pulis' successor in late May, feels the players have showed incredible signs of progression during the six-week pre-season campaign - one which included trips to France and the United States.
Speaking to Stoke City Player during Thursday's pre-match press conference, Hughes revealed his delight at the preparation that has been completed ahead of the game and says that both he and his first team squad are itching for the big kick-off.
"We are ready for it now," he enthused. "We feel that we have had enough friendly games, and put in the right amount of good quality work on the training pitches so as far as I am concerned it's time for the real thing.
"In terms of the work that the players have done and the progression that they have made, it really has been incredible. If anything they are ahead of where I anticipated them being at this moment in time.
"The attitude and application from them really has been eye opening; and truth be told it is a pleasure to come in to work each and every day, because they are a very special group of players who have an incredible work ethic."
He added: "The talking stops tomorrow though and we have to go out there and put everything that we have been working on into practise. It's going to be very difficult because Liverpool are a top team, but we will go there and look to be positive."
Meanwhile, the City boss has delivered good news on the fitness of several international stars who have spent the past four days away with their countries participating in friendly encounters.
"Thankfully they all look to have come back in good shape, which is real good news for us because you do worry about them when they go away, particularly when you are coming into the first game of the season.
"The only two that we are definitely without are Brek Shea and Jamie Ness, otherwise we have a full compliment of players available for the game."