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By ESPN Staff

Hughes: Winter break would aid national side

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes believes not having a winter break could be harming English teams' chances of success in European competitions.

The majority of leagues in Europe shut down for a period around Christmas and New Year - one of the busiest times of year in the English calendar.

City begin their UEFA Cup group campaign in a fortnight's time and will have to play 12 more European games if they are to reach the final, on top of the 38 Premier League matches plus FA Cup and Carling Cup, although City are out of the latter.

Hughes said: ''I think English teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to the business end of the season and trophies are up for grabs.

''Most of the time British players and British-based players are going into these games not in the peak of fitness because of the demands they've placed their bodies under from the beginning of the season to the end.

''So I think it's something worth looking at. It's been mooted in previous seasons but nothing's come of it so maybe there's an opportunity to look at it again.''

City host promoted Stoke tomorrow hoping to end a run of three league games without a victory.

The Potters have struggled for wins so far but go into the game on the back of a 2-1 victory over Tottenham last weekend - their second three points of the season.

Tony Pulis' side have earned a reputation for a physical approach and Hughes knows City must be up for the challenge at Eastlands.

''They're doing exceptionally well,'' the City boss said of Stoke. ''They're a big, strong side and they play to their strengths, and you have to match that.

''Getting the ball into the box early with crosses and throw-ins and set-plays is effective and you have to be able to stand up and be counted, and that's what we'll have to do.

''What we have to do is make sure we're very creative, as we have been all year, but make sure we keep the back door shut and stand up to the challenge. It'll be a hard afternoon for us.''

Hughes also confronted the issue of Rory Delap's feared long throws, which have proved too much for a number of Premier League defences already.

''Throw-ins of the quality he produces have to be addressed and that's what we'll do,'' Hughes said. ''It's very much to do with the angle of delivery into the box.''

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