Stoke City v Blackpool: Preview
Stoke manager Tony Pulis believes his team's match against Blackpool this weekend will be one of the toughest games they have faced at the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters have hosted some of the best sides in the world since their promotion to the Premier League in 2007/08, but Pulis reckons Saturday's clash with Ian Holloway's men will surpass many of those.
He said: "Blackpool are a fluent team. They're very organised and everybody knows their jobs.
"It's going to be a tough, tough game for us.
"I think it will be one of our toughest games at the Britannia, for two reasons.
"Firstly, it's one of the few occasions that we will be favourites, and secondly, the fact that they are such a well-drilled, fit, organised team."
But, despite his high estimation of Blackpool, Pulis' team - who lie in 10th place after a 2-2 draw with Wigan last weekend - head into the match in upbeat mood.
He said: "The confidence is high, the players have done well, and we need to keep picking points up because the league is a very, very tight league this year."
Pennant and defender Andy Wilkinson are injury doubts for the Blackpool game. The cold weather has hindered their fitness battle, but Pulis hopes they will be able to play some part in the match.
"The conditions have been very, very difficult for us to get the lads out training on the grass pitches," he said.
"That has held us back a little bit, but we're hoping that Jermaine and Andy will be in contention."
Blackpool have no fresh injury worries for the clash.
Ludovic Sylvestre could return after a hamstring strain, while Alex Baptiste is continuing his recovery from a knee problem.
Matt Gilks, Chris Basham, Billy Clarke (all knee), Marlon Harewood (hamstring) and Louis Almond (shoulder) remain sidelined.
Summer signing Malaury Martin, who damaged his knee shortly after joining the Seasiders, is back in training with the club following a period of rehabilitation in France and is expected to make his debut in January.
Seasiders manager Holloway has lauded Pulis for his "phenomenal" work at Stoke - but believes it is important he continues developing his own recipe for success.
With the Welshman at the helm, Stoke won promotion to the top flight in 2008 and have since notched impressive 12th and 11th-placed finishes.
They currently lie 10th having drawn 2-2 on Saturday at Wigan, a match watched by Holloway, who believes Pulis - his former team-mate at Bristol Rovers - has fashioned an outfit who play better football than they are given credit for.
"It will be a massive challenge - I watched them against Wigan last weekend and I thought they were terrific," Holloway said.
"Never has a team had not enough written about them (as Stoke). Everyone talks about one thing and their fans have got some great songs about `We only score from a throw-in' and all that sort of stuff.
"But he has gradually stepped the level of their players up to a fantastic level and it will be an honour to take my team there and try to take them on.
"I know how tough it is going to be - they have some brilliant players. Matt Etherington was almost unplayable at times (against Wigan) he was so sharp and so quick.
"Then they have got Kenwyne Jones up front and Ricardo Fuller. It is phenomenal what he has done."
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