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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Pulis reveals N'Zonzi Allardyce chat

Stoke manager Tony Pulis has revealed Sam Allardyce played a big part in triggering the signing of Steven N'Zonzi.

N'Zonzi, 23, was man of the match in last weekend's home draw against Manchester City and will shifts his sights from Premier League champions to Champions League winners when his new club go to Chelsea on Saturday.

The leggy midfielder played under Alllardyce during his time at Blackburn and Pulis highlighted the chat with one of his managerial counterparts that set the ball rolling, as well as outlining the sustained efforts put in at the Britannia Stadium to see the deal through.

"About 18 months ago , it might have been even longer, Big Sam gave Steven a real big drum roll," he said. "It was just after he (Allardyce) had left Blackburn. He said he could be a very good player.

"We chased him down. It took a long time but that's what we do here and we worked very hard to keep on the trail. We have Steven now and we hope he will be a good player and do a good job for us."

Saturday's match at Stamford Bridge, where Pulis was a spectator for the midweek Champions League game against Juventus, continues Stoke's daunting start to the season.

They have drawn all four Premier League games to date and, having already faced Arsenal and City, are not about to find the going any easier.

"We're one of four unbeaten sides," Pulis added. "We've played two of the other three and we have Chelsea this Saturday. People now realise how tough this start has been for Stoke City. You have to play all of them some time and we've caught them really early. There's no negativity round here."

Stoke have won only one game in 15 in the league, going back to last spring, but Pulis puts that down to an exhaustive campaign last term.

"Last season, after the amount of games we played in having a fantastic run in Europe and the cups, we switched off psychologically as soon as we got to 40 points," he said. "We didn't want to but the players were fatigued.

"The next three away games now are Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. The lads' application has been absolutely first class and it will need to be the same against the champions of Europe.

"We know it's going to be tough....they are a very, very good side. People are playing it down and said they were lucky to win the Champions League. That's nonsense. It is such a tough competition to win, probably the most difficult in the world. I went to the game on Wednesday and Chelsea were unfortunate. We could have been talking about a deserved victory."

Stoke have to find a replacement at right-back for Andy Wilkinson, who has been banned for three matches for violent conduct, following a clash with Mario Balotelli last Saturday.

Pulis has accepted the punishment and may turn to USA international Geoff Cameron, although Ryan Shotton is another option, as is the switch of Robert Huth to right-back, with Matthew Upson drafted in at centre-half.

"I don't think Andy meant to but he did catch him without a question of a doubt," Pulis added. "Mark Clattenburg said he would look because he didn't see it in the game and he has deemed it to be reckless. We're fine with that and we move on."

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