Stoke eager to prove FA Cup strength
Tony Pulis is intent on preserving Stoke City's reputation as powerful FA Cup campaigners when Premier League champions Manchester City visit the Britannia Stadium in Saturday's big fourth-round tie.
Despite the counter-attraction of an important league fixture at home to Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, the manager is refusing to contemplate the possibility of rotating his squad and giving a rest to certain players.
It took quarter-final trips to Liverpool and Chelsea to end Stoke's interest in the competition last season and in 2009-10 respectively. In the year between those two successful campagins, Stoke were narrowly beaten by Roberto Mancini's men in the final at Wembley.
The Potters take some fitness concerns, especially in defence, into the clash this weekend, but Pulis is making the FA Cup a big priority at a time when the club's league position is seemingly comfortable.
"I will play my strongest team on Saturday but we've still got one or two niggles," he said. "Andy Wilkinson is still struggling a bit, which is a bit of a concern. Ryan Shotton has trained and played half a game on Tuesday (behind closed doors against Derby) but he didn't look that comfortable."
Pulis, who believes Stoke deserve credit for bucking the trend and playing their strongest line-up in the Cup in recent years, could again turn to Dean Whitehead to fill the breach, with the former Sunderland and Oxford midfielder having been used at full-back in the last two games.
The left side of defence is one area of the squad Pulis has been looking to strengthen, with a summer move for Goran Popov failing when the Macedonian signed for West Bromwich Albion instead.
He is still attempting to strengthen his hand before the window shuts and added: "I couldn't tell you whether we are going to do it or not. We will certainly be trying and you have to be careful because it is the (Coates) family's money."
Stoke's squad has been reinforced by the recent return of Jermaine Pennant and Mamady Sidibe following loan spells at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday respectively but teenage striker Ryan Brunt has been given permission to join Bristol Rovers on a free transfer.