STOKE CITY will have their excellent unbeaten run put through its toughest test at champions Manchester City on New Year’s Day . . . with manager Tony Pulis admitting that it will be a ‘bonus’ if the record stays intact.
Pulis’ side extended their run to ten matches when they fought back with ten men to earn a point against Southampton at the weekend, but they face a massive challenge if they are to make it eleven at the Etihad Stadium.
City’s manager will be boosted by the fact that Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron will be back from one-match suspensions for the first game of 2013, while Steven Nzonzi is also available despite his red card on Saturday.
But he said: “This is a bonus game for us. We will need a hell of a lot to go for us if we are to get a result from this match.
“Everybody knows it’s going to be a tough, tough game with all the resources that make them one of the top clubs in Europe.
“But we’ll go there with the same spirit and commitment which we have shown throughout this run and really give it a go.”
He added: “Five points from three matches over Christmas has been a great return when you consider that we’ve been to Tottenham and then had two tough home matches against Liverpool and Southampton.”
Pulis is nevertheless relishing the opportunity to measure his side’s progress against the champions, and believes his players will too, as they take on Roberto Mancini’s side who have ground to make up in their title defence.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to go to a fantastic stadium and pit ourselves against a team full of fabulous players,” he said.
In wishing fans a Happy New Year, Pulis admitted that the level of support was his greatest memory of the past twelve months.
“It’s great that we still have the crowd the way they are, and there was no better example of that than the last two home matches.
“It’s absolutely wonderful that we have that level of backing and it is certainly the stand out memory for me over the past year.”
Though Pulis is likely to recall Shawcross and Cameron while also including Nzonzi, he is also considering other changes.
“One or two players looked tired on Saturday, so we may look at freshening it up,” City’s manager indicated ahead of the game.