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Pulis rues crazy fixture list

Tony Pulis has expressed his concern ahead of Stoke's clash with Newcastle United on Monday night as the post-weekend fixture preceeds a 7,500-mile round trip in the Europa League in midweek.

After the Premier League match with the Magpies, Stoke travel to Israel to play Maccabi Tel-Aviv on Thursday and return to face another away trip at Bolton to conclude what Pulis has described as a "difficult week".

"We could have done without the game being on a Monday night. We could have done with it over the weekend but money talks for the powers that be who run football," Pulis said.

"This is a completely new and unique season for us in respect of playing Saturday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday... Monday! We've only had one game that kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon - that's out of 18 matches. So we have to manage people's expectations because there'll be periods when we're not going to do well, because of all sorts of reasons. You know what it's like, people expect you to win and keep winning."

Pulis will keep a close eye on his players' condition before picking a side for each match and has asked his medical team to come up with recovery programmes for each individual.

"Because it's such a difficult week, I will look at the situation closely this week," Pulis said. "The only way we do it is on the Prozone stats. The mental thing is the difficult thing because they all want to play.

"They just want to play. I've not had one player coming to me and say that they're tired. Even when there's one coming up on the Thursday, they're all 'Don't leave me out'.

"So we've given them a programme on different things we think they should be doing for rest and recovery, which we think is important. They have individual instructions on what to do, what not to do, especially after the flights. It'll be over five hours to Tel Aviv."

Meanwhile, Pulis has urged Mamady Sidibe not to worry as the striker attempts to overcome yet another major injury.

Sidibe, who has not played for Stoke's first team since August 2010 after twice rupturing an Achilles tendon, might have come into contention to play a part in this busy week, but instead he suffered fresh injury heartache when he damaged a knee tendon in a reserve game on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old is now set for a fourth knee surgery in three years amid fears that he may never play again.

Pulis has moved to assure the Mali international that he will be "looked after" by the club with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, but revealed Sidibe is understandably very downbeat.

"He's very down in himself," Pulis said on the club's website. "His mum's over at the moment and it's not been a very good week for the family. He's worked very, very hard to get back again, it's been a long road when the injury is that severe and it's been several times.

"For him to have done it three or four times, it sets him back so far.

"But I've had a chat with him and he doesn't have to worry. I think he's a worrier but the club will look after him. We have assured him we will back him and we will look after him."

Sidibe had come as close as making the substitutes' bench before his latest setback, and would likely have been called on as Pulis tries to navigate a punishing schedule.


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