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Swansea V Stoke at Liberty Stadium : Match Preview
Pulis challenges Potters to avoid Euro hangover.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis does not want to see a successful week end on a sour note again when his team face Swansea in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday. The Potters go into the clash at the Liberty Stadium on the back of two impressive results over the past few days, a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Turkish side Besiktas in the Europa League on Thursday and last weekend's 1-1 draw with Manchester United, both at home.
A fortnight earlier, the Staffordshire outfit had overcome Liverpool 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium and then held Dynamo Kiev to a 1-1 draw in Ukraine in their Europa League Group E opener, only to be hammered 4-0 at Sunderland on the Sunday. It was their first - and to this point sole - defeat of the campaign, and Pulis is keen to avoid a repeat against the Swans. "The big challenge is raising your game for matches in a week, which is what we need to do at Swansea after the excellent results against Manchester United and Besiktas," Pulis told www.stokecityfc.com.
"We had a similar sequence in the lead up to Sunderland when we beat Liverpool and then drew out in the Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev, so that is a sobering reminder of what can happen if we're not right on it in this instance. "I'm told the record books show that sides who have successful Europa League campaigns find that their league form drops off as a result, so it will be very interesting to see what happens, but we are very mindful of that." Winger Matthew Etherington (dead leg) will undergo a fitness test ahead of the clash having limped out against Besiktas. Defender Jonathan Woodgate is available again having not been part of Stoke's European squad and the rested Asmir Begovic is set to return in goal. Salif Diao (fractured cheekbone) is another injury doubt while Kenwyne Jones (hamstring) remains sidelined.
Proud Welshman Pulis is well aware of the threat posed by newly-promoted Swansea, the Premier League's first Welsh club who recorded their maiden victory in the division in their last home game with a 3-0 triumph against West Brom. "Swansea have done fantastically as a football club over the past five or six years - not just since (their manager) Brendan Rodgers came in, but prior to that as well," Pulis said. "They have built a smashing football club there with an almost brand new stadium which has a fantastic atmosphere. "I've watched them twice this year and they are a very, very good side. They pass the ball around well and they have good players."
Swansea boss Rodgers has heaped praise on "incredible" captain Garry Monk as the centre-half prepares to again put his body on the line against Stoke despite not being fully fit. The 32-year-old missed the first four games of the Swans Premier League campaign as he struggled to get over a long-standing foot problem, caused by pain-killing injections in his back, which has seen him experiencing numbness. But he was pressed into action ahead of schedule when Rodgers found himself with a chronic shortage of centre-halves, injuries to Alan Tate and Steven Caulker and FIFA's denial of clearance for the signings of Darnel Situ and Rafik Halliche leaving him with Ashley Williams as his only fit option. That lack of options saw Monk summoned back into the side for the 3-0 win over West Brom and last weekend's 4-1 defeat at Chelsea.
And at the end of a week when Carlos Tevez was suspended after being accused of refusing to play for Manchester City, Rodgers has been amazed by the commitment his skipper, who has played for the club in all four divisions of the league pyramid, has shown. "He has been incredible considering what he has been through. He has put himself forward when he hasn't been fully fit and he hasn't let anyone down," he said. "Against West Brom he was exceptional and against Chelsea he was doing his best against some world class players.
"He is a player I can rely on, a great captain. Many players in his position, maybe nine out of 10 players, would not have put themselves forward. "He has an incredible mentality and he is a great man and it shows the mark of him. Many would be frightened to be exposed at this level but he put himself forward while trying to get fully fit as he understands the problems we have got. "He gives everything once he pulls the shirt on and we will need him more in the future." Midfielder Leon Britton (back) is the major fitness concern for Rodgers. Striker Danny Graham could come back into the starting line-up in place of Leroy Lita. end
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