TONY PULIS is eager to extend Stoke City’s proud FA Cup record of recent seasons . . . even though he may well rest one or two key players for the difficult third round encounter with Championship high-flyers Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Pulis would dearly love another glorious FA Cup run, after reaching the quarter finals in each of the past three seasons and, of course, the Final itself in 2011, but he feels that some of his players need a break after a tough Christmas and New Year programme.
Nevertheless, City’s manager insists that they will have their sights firmly fixed on launching another cup adventure this season by rising to this challenge.
“Our record over the past three seasons tells you how seriously we take the cup competitions and this season will be no different,” he commented.
“I always look forward to the cup competitions and I am sure the players will relish the break from the pressures of playing in the Premier League.
“One or two of them looked a bit tired in the Manchester City game, so I will be making changes to give some a rest and freshen it up a bit.
“But it will still be a strong team and one I think is right to get us a result. I’ve got a lot respect for Ian Holloway and Crystal Palace Football Club.”
Record signing Peter Crouch, England defender Matthew Upson, former Danish international ‘keeper Thomas Sorensen and midfielder Dean Whitehead are among those who are in contention for a place in the Potters’ starting line-up for Selhurst Park.
“We had a tough Christmas and New Year with four games in twelve days in which we played Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as having to play for 25 minutes with ten men against Southampton after the sending off,” he said.
“We were pleased with a return of five points from those matches, but the performance at Manchester City was a disappointing one and that was probably down to the fact that one or two of the players weren't looking as sharp as they have been.”
Pulis is under no illusions about the size of his side’s task, even though Palace’s priority is clearly gaining promotion to the Premier League this season.
They currently lie third in the Championship table, two points off the automatic promotion spots, and have lost only one of their last eight matches.
“They’re flying in the Championship, scoring goals for fun and full of confidence, so we know what we are up against in this tie,” added City’s boss.
“An away tie at any club from the lower leagues is tricky, but this one will be especially tough because Palace can cause us a lot of problems.
“They are a well-balanced and organised team with pace down both sides. They’ve also got some big strong lads in there and an experienced back four.
“Selhurst Park has always been a tough place to go; there’s always a great atmosphere there, but we have to go there and deal with that.”