A 16th-place finish, avoiding relegation by just four points, hints at a campaign of struggle, yet last season will probably go down as one of Hull's most successful of recent times. An FA Cup Final appearance where they eventually wilted in extra time against Arsenal, and Premier League safety all but assured with plenty of games to spare - not bad for a first season back in the big time.
Their cup exploits have earned them a place in this year's Europa League, though the additional burden of extra fixtures can make European football a double-edged sword for smaller squads - just ask Bolton, Newcastle and their next opponents, Stoke. Sunday comes sandwiched between a pair of Europa League playoffs, and should provide us the first indication of how Bruce intends to manage his squad effectively to challenge on four fronts.
Now an established Premier League outfit as finishing positions of 12th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 13th and 9th since their promotion six years ago will attest, it seems people are taking Stoke seriously this year. The Potters' progression is perhaps alluded to the fact that, not only were they largely excluded from the pre-season relegation talk (10.09/1 for the drop for those still interested), but widely tipped for a top 10 finish and even challenge for Europe by punters and pundits alike - you can get 2.68/5 for a top half effort from Mark Hughes' men.
Hughes will have identified his side's dreadful away record as an area for improvement. The Potters managed just three wins away from the Britannia last season (one of which was a dead rubber at West Brom in May), and only relegated trio Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham shipped more on the road.
Even at this embryonic stage of proceedings Hughes will not want to leave east Yorkshire empty handed, as a loss here with a visit to Man City next could leave Stoke bottom of the pile going into the international break with much of the pre-season momentum gone.
Hull's marquee signing Robert Snodgrass suffered knee ligament damage on his debut at QPR and will now miss six months, capping off a frustrating opener for the Tigers, while Bruce's son Alex joins defender Liam Rosenior on the sidelines.
Hughes has no new injury worries, and may give league debuts to Steve Sidwell and Victor Moses, who played no part on Saturday. Andy Wilkinson is still missing thanks to a recurring groin injury.
Hull went off 2.255/4 favourites for this fixture last season, so the 2.56/4 available this time around reflects both the host's European commitments either side of the weekend and Stoke's new found respect from the layers accurately enough.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The market is expecting a quiet afternoon and you can see why. Stoke leaked 1.84 goals per game on their travels last season, but before we jump on the 2.62 about over 2.5 Goals, it's worth noting that just 26% of games at Hull's KC Stadium went over that same goal line. At this early stage the jury is still out on the shaky Potters defence, but with no Hull player mustering more than five goals last season, clearly the Tigers aren't the side to exploit this potential weakness and goals look sufficiently thin on the ground.
I don't actually place much importance on the "European Hangover" - statistics taken from the last five seasons of the Premier League studying domestic performances either side of European duty showed an increase in teams' win ratios directly after both a Champions League (+2%) and Europa League (+3%) matches. However, when playing away prior to a Sunday fixture teams tend to pick up far fewer points on average.
My preference with this match is to look at the half time market, as I think this could be a slow burner. Exactly half of Stoke's games last season were level at half time - only Fulham drew more - and both these sides went in goalless at the break last weekend. The visitors will be typically hard to break down and if Hull struggle to find a way through early doors it could contribute to a diluted atmosphere as is often the case with these early Sunday kickoffs. Hull may take time re-adapting to boring old league football again, and anything odds-against is worthy of a bet here. I'll take the 2.0621/20 about the draw at half time.
You feel Hull will want to bring someone in before the window closes following Shane Long's departure, and a bid for Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes was rejected this week. Nikica Jelavic continues to underwhelm since his move and has yet to score a single goal at the KC Stadium.
It may then pay to look elsewhere for goalscorer value, particularly on the wings where Tom Ince and Stephen Quinn both appeal. The majority of Hull's good work comes from this area which makes Snodgrass' injury all the more galling from a Tigers perspective. In his absence, the onus will be on Ince to retain Hull's width, and he should get a lot of change running at a creaky visiting defence. His raw pace and power caused QPR plenty of problems. You should be able to get matched at around 4.57/2 once the market develops, which would be a decent price for him to make his mark.
Quinn ran the show after replacing Snodgrass at the weekend, and you would think he has done enough to earn a start. His game is more about assists but if he can carry his early form into this game he could grab one for himself, and if he does find himself in the starting XI on Sunday then you may be able to get as big as 10.09/1 about the Irishman getting his name on the scoresheet.
3pts Back the draw in the half time market @ 2.0621/20
1pt Back Tom Ince to score anytime @ 4.57/2 or better
1pt Back Stephen Quinn to score anytime @ 10.09/1 or better