ASMIR BEGOVIC admits that he and his team-mates would have loved to have been involved in the FA Cup fifth round this weekend . . . however, he feels that their absence from the competition may ultimately prove to be a blessing in disguise.
The Potters, who have reached a Final and two quarter-finals of the world's most famous domestic cup competition in the last three years, saw hopes of further glory dashed when Manchester City secured a spot in the last sixteen at the Britannia Stadium.
The Bosnian ace is still disappointed that the Club's participation in the FA Cup is over, but has challenged the squad to overcome that setback and reach a landmark half-century of Premier League points, as well as securing a first ever top-ten finish.
"We always pride ourselves in doing well in the cup competitions," the 25-year-old goalkeeper said. "To have a good cup run means a lot to the Club, the players and to the supporters, but we weren't able to do that this season.
"There is no shame in getting knocked out by the Premier League Champions, and I guess it now allows us to concentrate, and focus on the run in to the League campaign and buckle down for the last twelve games.
"Reaching that 40-point mark is the immediate priority, but after that we can look to push the Club on even further."
He added: "It would be incredible to reach the highest-ever points total for the club in the Premier League and hopefully secure a place in the top-ten for the first time. They are our big ambitions!"
The Potters will be looking to build upon last weekend's first League victory of 2013 when they travel to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham in seven days time.
Begovic is anticipating a tough afternoon down in London, but believes that all three points could head back to the Britannia Stadium, if, of course, the side are able to keep the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz in check.
"They have some smart technical players like Berbatov and Ruiz, who can open you up at any point and can create that bit of magic to win any game," he acknowledged.
"We always know that it will be a tough game against Fulham; we have had some tough games at Craven Cottage. They are very well organized and we will have to keep some of their danger men in check.
"They are a team that are similar to us in certain ways but play their football a bit differently, so we will need to be on our best form to get a result."