Sunderland boss David Moyes blasts Jeremain Lens for 'disrespectful' comments
David Moyes has accused midfielder Jeremain Lens of being "disgracefully disrespectful" to Sunderland after apparently claiming he might get the move he wants if they are relegated.
The 29-year-old Dutchman is currently on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce under former Black Cats boss Dick Advocaat, the man who brought him to the Stadium of Light in an B#8million switch from Dynamo Kiev in July 2015, and earning rave reviews for his performances.
Advocaat is keen to strike a permanent deal for Lens and Sunderland are prepared to offload the player, who failed to make a lasting impact during his 13 months on Wearside, although no agreement is yet in place.
The former PSV Eindhoven man was widely quoted in the Turkish media this week suggesting that Sunderland's relegation from the Premier League might ease his passage, and that drew a furious response from Moyes.
He said: "It's disgracefully disrespectful to the club which holds his registration. You would hate to think that anybody who was connected to a club had said that."
Lens is perhaps the least of Moyes' worries at the moment as he attempts to keep hold of the players he does want after confirming that Sunderland, who entertain Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday, have rejected a bid understood to be in the region of B#7million from Crystal Palace for full-back Patrick van Aanholt.
The manager revealed that Palace's move, which came barely a week after West Ham attempted to prise star striker Jermain Defoe from his grasp, was the latest in a series from potential suitors and was rebuffed unequivocally.
He said: "It's a permanent 'no' because we want to keep him. We have had bids for other players, so somewhere along the line, maybe we'll decide there'll be a bid we do take, but at the moment, I want to keep our best players, I want to try to add to the squad if I can.
"Ultimately there's always a price for somebody, but my plan is not to sell any players."
The Black Cats manager could have Billy Jones available following a hamstring injury but Victor Anichebe (hamstring) and Steven Pienaar, who has a calf complaint, both miss out.
Jordan Pickford, Jan Kirchhoff, Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore (all knee), Lee Cattermole (hip) and Lynden Gooch (ankle) all remain on the casualty list.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes expects a response from his side after watching his team exit the FA Cup with barely a whimper at home to Wolves last weekend, losing 2-0 to the Sky Bet Championship club.
Stoke's first-half showing angered Hughes although he felt his players improved in the second half, when a handful of decent saves from Carl Ikeme kept them at bay.
The Potters head to the north east with only one win from their last six league games and Hughes feels more urgency as a defensive unit holds the key to improving that record and getting back on track.
"We didn't perform to the level that we needed to last week, despite me picking a side that was more than capable of winning the game," said Hughes.
"I have spoken about it with them this week, and as we have seen before, on the back of poor performances we more often than not bounce straight back.
"There are some frustrations within our building because of what happened last weekend and the guys are desperate to put those wrongs to right.
"Sunderland have struggled defensively and we have threats that can hurt them. But we need to be solid though because we have been a little slow in our defensive work, in terms of defending from the front. However, it is right across the board where we need to improve, not just the back line.
"I fully expect us to show a response tomorrow, although I acknowledge the difficulties facing us."
The difficulties Hughes refers to includes his list of absentees. Striker Jonathan Walters is set for an extended spell on the sidelines after undergoing a knee operation.
The Republic of Ireland international has played through the pain barrier recently but the persistent problem has forced Walters to have surgery in an attempt to resolve the issue - something that will deprive Hughes of the 33-year-old for a few weeks.
Bojan will also miss out on Saturday with a hip issue while Ramadan Sobhi, Wilfried Bony and Mame Biram Diouf remain away on African Nations Cup duty.
Those absences mean teenager Julien Ngoy will be involved again while Marc Muniesa and Phil Bardsley are in contention after a week's training.