TONY PULIS today highlighted the importance of Stoke City maintaining their ‘tremendous togetherness’ . . . as they prepare for arguably their toughest test yet of a long unbeaten home record currently standing at 17 matches.
Pulis has stressed once again that the Club’s supporters should never under-estimate the influence which their backing has upon the team and recognises that they will need it more than ever when facing the Champions of Europe Chelsea.
City’s manager has also warned that his side can expect their task to be even tougher in the wake of Chelsea’s surprising home defeat in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Swansea City on Wednesday evening.
“Big clubs like Chelsea rarely lose two games in a row, so a defeat like that makes them particularly dangerous,” said Pulis who was at Stamford Bridge to see Michu and Danny Graham pounce on defensive lapses to cause the upset.
“This has all the makings of a great game. It is important that we try to extend our unbeaten home run, but Chelsea’s away record under Rafael Benitez has been much better than their home form. So something has to give in this match.
“We know that the players have to perform to their absolute maximum, but so too will our supporters if we are to keep that run going.
“The home record is not just about the players, it’s the Football Club in general. The unbeaten run is what it is because of the atmosphere here.
“The players respond to the supporters. The noise is like a pulse through the stadium and that goes into the players to help them.”
He added: “We’re in our fifth season in the Premier League and we still have that tremendous togetherness which is so important. A lot of clubs get it for a year or two, but then it drops off a bit, whereas we have managed to maintain it.
“That level of backing is something very special that we have, and it is great credit to the supporters and to the people of Stoke-on-Trent.”
Pulis is relishing the prospect of taking on Chelsea, even though his side have managed to take only two points off them in nine Premier League meetings up to now, those being draws in their last two visits to the Britannia Stadium.
“We always look forward to taking on the big clubs at home and I know the supporters enjoy those occasions too,” he commented.
“To have the European Champions come and play at the Britannia Stadium is absolutely fantastic for this Football Club. They have some great players in their squad and we have tremendous respect for them and for the Club as well.
“They have players in their side who can go and win a football match anywhere, so we know that it is going to be incredibly tough for us.
“We have come close to getting better results against them on a number of occasions. We were unlucky not to get a point at Stamford Bridge earlier this season when Ashley Cole grabbed the winner five minutes from the end.”
Pulis has no major injury concerns ahead of the Chelsea match with long-term absentees Marc Wilson and Rory Delap the only players unavailable for selection.
Asmir Begovic and Glenn Whelan, who were rested for the FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace last weekend, will almost certainly return, while Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam are among those who are in contention for a place in the starting line-up.