REUTERS - Stoke City manager Mark Hughes believes his side's reputation of being one of the country's most physical has led to unfair treatment by officials in a season that has yet to produce a single Premier League victory.
"Maybe our reputation goes before us. I think most people can see we've changed in our approach, and we have," Hughes told reporters on Friday ahead of the weekend's Premier League fixture against Sunderland.
"Maybe referees feel they need to give Stoke players early yellow cards to calm the Stoke players down and make it easier for them to referee. You'd have to ask referees.
"Or maybe they just think they're blatant fouls that deserve yellow cards. I'd obviously disagree with that. We have experienced referees now, and sometimes that is a difficult feeling to have in the back of your mind."
Hughes added that right back Glen Johnson was set for a month on the sidelines after picking up a thigh injury that prevented him from representing England in the recent World Cup qualifiers.
Johnson, having last featured for the national team at the 2014 World Cup, was unexpectedly called up for matches against Malta and Slovenia but was forced to withdraw due to the injury.
"Glen Johnson will be out with a thigh problem after picking it up in training. It looks like it'll be three to four weeks," Hughes added.
Stoke are 19th in the standings and host bottom-placed Sunderland on Saturday in a fixture between the only two teams who have yet to secure a league win this season.
(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)