Stoke are looking to book themselves a place in the Europa League group stages tomorrow night as they take on Swiss side FC Thun for the second time in a week in their play-off tie.
The Potters head into the game with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg thanks to a sweet Danny Pugh volley and have every reason to be optimistic .
However, they will be without two of the football club’s most influential players.
Whilst Stoke head into the game with a lead and a crucial away goal, Tony Pulis maintains the Potters must be aware of the ‘nothing to lose’ approach of the Swiss side.
‘Robert and Matty will be a loss for us, and it’s a reminder that this will be a tough game for us.
‘We did superbly out in Switzerland to win there, but now we must make sure we finish the job’
‘They will come here thinking they have nothing to lose, which makes them dangerous, and we saw enough last week to know they can be a threat.’
The extra games in Europe can bring glory but it can also breed problems, with Stoke’s threadbare squad being tested already, as Pulis admitted :
‘It does put an extra stress on the playing side and at the moment we haven’t got the depth to cope with it.’
‘When you play a midweek game here it’s normally on a Tuesday, which gives you a day off and then two days to prepare for the weekend game.
‘But last week we played Thursday, travelled Friday and had one day to get ready for the game at Norwich.
‘It’s all new to us and we are learning as we go along. I’m not complaining because it’s a measure of our success, but I do hope our fans understand and give our lads the support they will need against Thun.’
Danny Pugh was the hero of last week’s game, and he also told stokecityfc.com how the tie is far from over.
“It’s not done and dusted by any means, no way,we have a huge job to finish off and we know from last week that they are a pretty decent team who like to get the ball down and play a little bit.
“We do have the advantage, but in two legged affairs that doesn’t make any difference really. We still have to go out there on Thursday, be professional and play the game like it is still 0-0.
He added: “They are going extremely well in their league so we can’t afford to underestimate them one single bit. It will be tough, but we have the belief that if we can play to our strengths then we can finish the job off.”
Stoke City Team News:
Matty Etherington and Robert Huth both picked up bookings in the first leg so will miss tonight’s tie due to suspension.
Pulis will be therefore be pinning his hopes on Jermaine Pennant and Rory Delap to recover from their injury problems and feature against the current Swiss league leaders.
Player to watch: Danny Pugh
The 27-year-old played well in the first leg, topping his performance off with a goal and with the absence of Etherington and the possible emission of Pennant, the onus on will be on the former Manchester United trainee to supply the ammunition to Jones and Walters.
FC Thun Team News:
FC Thun keeper David da Costa will miss the game after being sent off in the last minute for fouling Jon Walters when the striker looked set to put the tie to bed.
Player to watch: FC Thun’s manager : Bernard Challandes
OK – so he isn’t a player, but the reaction of FC Thun Bernard Challandes after his side’s defeat last week was extremely funny.
Expect similar antics tomorrow night from the 60-year-old, especially if he isn’t happy with refereeing decisions!
Match Facts & Stats
Stoke 2-0 FC Thun
Thun struggled in the first game and despite the absences of Huth & Etherington I still expect the Potters to have way too much at home as Stoke swamp the Swiss with set pieces.
West Brom away, Sunday 28th August.