MARK HUGHES believes the passion of Stoke City’s support could help propel his side into the Semi-Finals of the Carling Cup this evening.
The Potters will bid for a place in the last four of the competition when they face Manchester United on an eagerly-anticipated night at the Britannia Stadium.
Hughes is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against David Moyes’ men for a second time in less than two months after United narrowly edged their Premier League encounter at Old Trafford.
And he hopes City’s fans will prove as inspirational to his players this evening as they were 11 days ago when Chelsea were beaten 3-2 in their last home outing.
“It was plain for everyone to see last time out at the Britannia against Chelsea that the crowd got behind us,” he said. “They understood they had a big part to play, the crowd really drove us on and the players responded to that.
“We upped our levels, maybe by five or 10 per cent, and there will be occasions against United with the ability they have at their disposal that they will peg us back somewhat and we’ll need help from the fans.
“We’ve got to make sure we stay in the game and cause them problems. We did just that against Chelsea and United will have to play well to match the quality Chelsea showed against us.
“We were still able to overcome Chelsea so the game against United doesn’t hold any fears for us. We’re not apprehensive going into the game; we’re looking forward to it.
“United are a good team, we all acknowledge and respect that, but the best way to respect teams is by playing to your maximum and beating them.”
The Potters have lost only one of their last eight league and cup games and Hughes believes his side are in the right kind of shape to claim the scalp of the reigning Premier League Champions.
However, despite United’s faltering start to the season under new boss Moyes, Hughes knows exactly what to expect from his old club.
He added: “I was at United for a number of years and I know what the usual reaction to criticism from the outside is at that Club; they usually circle the wagons and come out fighting. I think we saw that at the weekend with their performance against Aston Villa.
“I just feel we’re in a good place at the moment and I feel we took real encouragement and confidence from the way we played against Chelsea last time out at the Britannia.
“With a great atmosphere and everyone pushing us on I think we can have a real go.”