TONY PULIS has urged Stoke City’s players and supporters “to give their very best” . . . as they put an excellent FA Cup record on the line in Saturday’s fourth round meeting with Premier League champions Manchester City.
Pulis’ side will come up against one of only three teams to have beaten them in 18 FA Cup outings over a period of time in which they have reached the quarter finals in three successive seasons and gone on to play in their first-ever Final in 2011.
Although City will have home advantage in the lived televised encounter at the Britannia Stadium, they are well aware that Roberto Mancini’s side will provide one of the toughest tests of that proud record in the competition.
“It’s a fantastic achievement that we have lost only three times in 18 FA Cup games and those defeats have been away to Chelsea, away to Liverpool and in the Final against Manchester City,” commented City’s manager.
“This Football Club deserves a lot of credit for taking the FA Cup that seriously when staying in the Premier League has been our priority.”
He added: “This will be another fantastic occasion in the cup because it’s a great privilege to be hosting the Premier League champions.
“They’re a great team with great players. We know we will have to play to our maximum and the supporters have to perform to their maximum too. If we can do that, and we have a bit of luck on the day, hopefully we can go through.
“But it needs us all to turn up and give it the very best that we possibly can. On and off the pitch, we have to be like that to get a result.”
Pulis is hoping that his players can produce the kind of performance which they did for much of the home match against Chelsea earlier this month, even though they ended losing 4-0 in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
“I thought we played exceptionally well for long periods in that game and it certainly wasn’t a 4-0 defeat,” he declared.
“We were the better side in the first half, but went to sleep just before the break. Then, we had another good quarter of an hour before their second and third goals in quick succession really killed us off in the second half.”
Pulis knows, however, that City must get back to their mean old selves at the back if they are to overcome the champions.
Having kept five clean sheets in a ten match unbeaten run before Christmas, they have conceded 13 goals in the last four Premier League games.
“We have become really sloppy and so we have to get back to the way we were defending before Christmas,” said City’s boss.
“We have conceded six goals off set-pieces, either first or second phase, which is unlike us. But the players know what they have to do.”