TONY PULIS admits he still has flashbacks to the occasion when Stoke City were within a couple of minutes of pulling off a famous victory at Chelsea . . . as he prepares for Saturday's meeting with the European champions at Stamford Bridge.
Pulis' side have come away from Chelsea empty-handed on five occasions since their promotion to the Barclays Premier League, but they led through a Rory Delap goal going into the closing stages of their visit there in the 2008-09 season.
As City's manager sized up their task in the latest trip to Stamford Bridge, he recalled those final few minutes when Juliano Belletti and Frank Lampard swooped to snatch all three points from the Potters' grasp in a dramatic turnaround.
"We've been close to getting a result there on a couple of occasions and we've also been on the end of a couple of heavy defeats," he commented.
"I still have flashbacks to that night when we were so close to winning there, but they eventually wore us down and scored twice in injury time.
"That's what the top teams do to you, they wear you down. You need to have the belief and the determination to get through that.
"We know that they are a top, top team with outstanding quality throughout their squad and if things go for them on the day, they are more than likely to come out on top. But if we work hard and things go our way, who knows?"
He added: "The important thing is we are talking about playing against the champions of Europe a week after we have drawn with the Premier League champions. It's fantastic that Stoke City can look forward to occasions like this.
"We knew this was going to be a tough start; as tough as it's been since we've been in the Premier League, and everyone has come to realise that now. Three of the next four games are at Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
"You know at this level that you are going to have runs like this and we've caught it right at the start. I spoke to Paul Jewell and back in his time in charge of Wigan Athletic, they had a run of six matches against the top teams in which they failed to get anything out of them, yet they still managed to finish in the top ten.
"You just have to get on with it because you know you have to play these matches at some point over the course of the season.
"We're one of only four teams in the Premier League still unbeaten. We've already played two of the others and now we face the third."
Pulis watched Chelsea open their defence of the Champions League title with a 3-3 draw against Italian giants Juventus of Wednesday.
"I'm a football manager who enjoys watching football, whether it's the Champions League or a game at League Two level." said City's manager. "I just enjoy football, so to go to the game, the atmosphere, the opportunity to see great players perform on that stage and one of the great, great clubs in Europe in Juventus; it was a fantastic occasion.
"I thought Chelsea were a little unfortunate. If Mata had scored a third just before Juventus equalised, we'd be talking about a well-deserved victory."