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Stoke City v Newcastle United: Preview
Published : 18 Mar 2011 22:39:11
Stoke boss Tony Pulis knows his side must make the most of their remaining home games if they are to avoid being dragged further into the Barclays Premier League relegation scrap.
Three defeats in their last four games have seen the Potters drop to within three points of the bottom three ahead of the clash with Newcastle at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke's home form has ensured they have kept their heads above water this season, with seven wins from 14 games compared to 11 defeats from 15 away.
The difference in their results in 2011 has been particularly stark - six wins and two draws at home and six defeats and two wins away.
Both those away victories came in the FA Cup, and Pulis admitted their run to the semi-finals has affected their league form.
He said: "We're unbeaten at home since the Fulham game just after Christmas so our home form hasn't been too bad. What we've done is played a lot of cup games in that period of time, and we've won those games.
"We'd have liked to have sprinkled it with a few results away from home but now we've got a run of home games, we've got more home games left than away games, and we have to make sure our home form is solid, as we have done over the last two and a half years.
"With five games at home, we've got to make sure we get points out of those games."
With a home clash against Chelsea and a trip to Tottenham to come immediately after the international break a decent result is imperative for Pulis' side.
He added: "We've got Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal to come so they're tough games, but you look at all the other teams and they've got tough games as well, which is brilliant for everybody."
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has dismissed the constant stream of speculation surrounding the club to concentrate on the task of securing its Premier League status.
During his short spell on Tyneside to date, Pardew has quickly learnt the Magpies are rarely not a topic of conversation for one reason or another.
The last week alone has seen the club linked with a Indian takeover and a growing list of potential summer transfer targets with onlookers waiting to see just what owner Mike Ashley's intentions are.
Newcastle continue to insist the business is no longer for sale, and point to the investment they have made in securing the long-term futures of the likes of midfielder Cheick Tiote, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson and Nile Ranger in recent months as evidence of their strategy for lasting success.
Pardew and his scouting team, armed with what they hope will be the lion's share of the proceeds of Andy Carroll's #35million departure for Liverpool, have already started to identify the men they believe can take the club forward, and the manager is ignoring talk of a change of ownership.
He said: "We have dismissed that quite thoroughly, I don't expect that to raise its head again.
"Mike has made a commitment with these long-term contracts that he wants to see a plan going forward, and that's what we will try to carry out."
The first step in the process, of course, is ensuring the Magpies are still playing their football in the top flight next season, something which looked a racing certainty when a 2-0 victory at Birmingham on February 15 put them eight points clear of the drop zone.
However, a return of just one point from home clashes with Bolton and Everton has seen that gap reduced to just five points, and they head for Stoke knowing the fight is far from over.
Pardew said: "Unfortunately, we haven't got the cup to distract us - there are only four teams in the Premier League who have that left.
"We are in the same boat as everyone else and we have to concentrate now to see ourselves to a strong finish, and that's what we are going to try to do."
Newcastle's plans have been disrupted by an injury to key midfielder Joey Barton, whose absence against Bolton and Everton was conspicuous to say the least.
The 28-year-old has a chance of returning from a thigh strain at the Britannia Stadium, but Pardew will not risk him if he is not 100% fit.