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Pulis not feeling the pressure
Stoke manager Tony Pulis is adamant he is not under pressure despite his club's slow slide into this season's relegation scrap.
Approaching seven years in charge of City, Pulis is facing increased flak from the fans following a miserable run that has seen them win just one of the last 15 matches in all competitions.
From a position of comparative safety after a 3-1 win over Liverpool on Boxing Day, the Potters have since taken just six points from a possible 36 in the Barclays Premier League.
Although still 13th in the top flight, City find themselves only four points above a relegation zone topped by Aston Villa who they face at the Britannia Stadium.
Another defeat would not only thrust Stoke firmly into the thick of the battle to beat the drop, but also place Pulis in the firing line with supporters who have become disenchanted with his management.
Asked if he felt under any pressure of late, Pulis replied: "No. If anything I'm working my socks off to make sure the players don't feel the pressure.
"We're at home this week, so we'll have the supporters behind us, and the players know if they put in a shift they will have the backing of 28,000 people really getting behind them."
But given the fickle nature of club chairmen up and down the country, with managers losing their jobs at an alarming rate this year, Pulis knows there is no guarantee for himself, even if Stoke stay up.
"You sometimes despair at what goes on, but then you should never be surprised at what happens in football," added Pulis.
"I've a great chairman (Peter Coates), this is a great football club, I've been here a long time, earned a lot of respect from everybody here, and I want to stay."
All Pulis demands from the fans is they get behind the players rather turning any anger on him.
"Our supporters have made the Britannia the place it is and I know they will carry on doing that because they love their club so much," said Pulis.
"What they think of me does not matter now. It's what they think of their team that counts."
Winger Matthew Etherington is Pulis' only injury doubt ahead of the game with a back and groin problem.
Meanwhile, Paul Lambert is backing Aston Villa's crop of youngsters to hold their nerve in the Barclays Premier League survival battle and believes the pressure is on Stoke.
Lambert has seen Villa climb put of the relegation zone on four previous occasions this season and takes heart from the performance levels and confidence shown by his players in recent weeks.
He said: "When you look at the table, from 11th place down only four points separate the teams down to us. That's nothing. It's basically just one game.
"Everybody has to play some really hard fixtures. It's how you hold your nerve. We try to keep the place upbeat and we don't look like a team that is playing with nerves.
"You have to have a strong mentality so the pressure doesn't get to you and see it through. If you do that, that's half the battle.
"I have not spoken about relegation or anything like that. I think that breeds negativity. Form gives you confidence and we are playing well enough to get results.
"The thing for me is that they are confident in having the ball. It is not as if they are frightened by it and just want to launch the ball up the field. They are certainly play with a bit of freedom."
Central defender Ciaran Clark remains Villa's biggest injury concern with the shoulder problem suffered on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
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