STOKE CITY get the chance to redress the balance in their Barclays Premier League campaign . . . with manager Tony Pulis stressing the importance of making home advantage count.
Pulis’ side face two home matches in the space of four days against Fulham and Newcastle at the start of a period in which five of their next eight fixtures are at the Britannia Stadium.
It presents an opportunity for City to extend their unbeaten home record, which currently stands at 12 matches in the Premier League, and put points on the board to improve their position.
That follows a tough start to the season in which the Potters have played seven away games in their first twelve fixtures, but have still come out of it in relatively good shape.
“It’s so important that we make our home games count,” commented City’s manager at his pre-match press conference ahead of the visit of Fulham on Saturday.
“That has always been the case since we have been in the Premier League, and it remains so now. We have an opportunity over the next few days to strengthen our position.
“But we will certainly need to be at our best in two very tough games, and we also need our supporters to be at their best in getting behind the players once again.
“The supporters have played an enormous part in getting us where we are today, and they have a big role to play in the next couple of games when we face a big test.”
He added: “One of the reasons why it has been such a tough start has been the fact that we’ve played seven away games, but now we have a chance to balance it up.”
Pulis is under no illusions about the challenge in Saturday’s game, with Fulham sitting in the top half of the table, having scored 25 goals in their first twelve matches.
A major influence upon that start has been Dimitar Berbatov, a £5 million signing from Manchester United, who City’s manager describes as the buy of the season so far.
“There is certainly not a better buy as it stands at the moment,” he said. “In the games I’ve watched, he has been outstanding and he seems to be enjoying himself.
“Berbatov has found a home where he is the main player. He really knits their side together and he has shown so far the class that he undoubtedly possesses.”
He added: “I’ve got a lot of respect for Martin Jol as a manager and he has quietly gone about his business in putting his stamp on the Fulham team.
“Berbatov may be the one making all the headlines, but they have got a talented squad there and that is why they have been such a dangerous side this season.”