MARK BOWEN says the unforgiving nature of the Premier League means any side outside the top six or seven could find themselves embroiled in a tense relegation bottle.
The Potters bounced back from four successive defeats with a much-needed victory over Hull City last weekend and are preparing to take on fellow strugglers Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium this weekend.
The Swans have endured a frustrating campaign and currently find themselves inside the drop zone, having claimed just a solitary point from their previous six top-flight outings.
Speaking ahead of the fixture, Bowen said: “It doesn’t surprise me greatly to be honest because it can genuinely happen to any of the sides outside of the top six or seven.
“If you go on a bad run and lose confidence then you can get stuck in a rut, and find it difficult to get points on the board.
“That said, given the quality they have within their squad, I am a little surprised to see them in the position they are in.
“You do usually find one or two sides in the mix for relegation who you wouldn’t expect to be in there and Swansea appear to be that team this season.
“They are not dead and buried yet though, and from a personal perspective, I hope that after Saturday they get enough points to keep them in the league because I do have a soft spot for them having been born in the area.”
Despite a lethargic run of form, Bowen insists Paul Clement’s side will provide a stern test for the Potters and feels the opening 20 minutes of the fixture could go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.
“We know that they are going to be massively up for the game - it is huge for them,” he added.
“They will run around the pitch and chase every ball like their lives depend on it, but at the same time we know that we can affect their game if we start positively and strongly.
“Our intention is to be really fast and positive over the opening 15 or 20 minutes and give them plenty of things to worry about.
“If we can do that, then the supporters may feel a little anxious and nervous too, and hopefully we would be able to take advantage of that.”