Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday January 9 2009
10th January 2009
Stoke welcome Liverpool to the Brit and a repeat of the dogged goalless draw will be a bonus to Potters' fans now that the Reds top the table.
Stoke fans are now quite used to Tony Pulis' knack of signing 'failed' players on the cheap and then making them shine again - Ade Akinbiyi and Ricardo Fuller are just two recent examples. He's certainly hoping that his magic will work on Matthew Etherington but whether they'll be happy to be regarded as stray dogs is another thing!
Pulis compared the spending capabilities of the clubs at the top and the bottom with the difference between dogs at Crufts and Battersea Dogs Home: 'No disrespect but we are at a club where we can't deal in the top bracket of players we would like to bring here. We are always working below that.
'We are not at Crufts, we are at Battersea Dogs Home. We are looking for strays. We are looking for people who have gone astray with the aim of bringing them back.'
Well, Tone - what do they also say? 'A dog is for life - not just Christmas?' Be careful who you push out of the door this month.
Stoke have Fuller suspended for the second of three matches. Cresswell returns from his one match ban and Abdoulaye Faye had his one match ban overturned after the FA wrongly attributed one yellow card to his namesake, Amdy Faye.
New signing, Matthew Etherington should start. Dave Kitson may be be press-ganged back into action with the aid of a pain-killing injection and we'll have to wait and see if Liam Lawrence is regarded as fit to start. Salif Diao is another doubt and will face a late fitness test, but he will be keen to play against his old club. Mamady Sidibe is still injured.
All eyes will be on the newest signing in the Stoke squad. The 27 year old former Hammers and Spurs player appears keen to try and put the bright lights of London (and it's distractions) behind him and rebuild his footballing career.
As long as no one takes him 'up Hanley' to the Bingo he should be ok.
Striker Fernando Torres is set to play after recovering from injury for the first time since November.
Alvaro Arbeloa (hamstring) is out, as is Xabi Alonson, but Javier Mascherano returns.
Reds' Boss, Rafa Benitez is also likely to be back on the bench for the first time since undergoing a minor op to remove some kidney stones before Christmas.
The inspirational skipper has let his squeaky clean image slip over the past couple of weeks with his arrest in a Southport nightclub, but he still remains a potent weapon on the pitch.
The goalless draw at Anfield back in September may have upset the purists and pundits, but another performance like that will be enough for me.
Sat 17th January: Chelsea (away) kick-off: 3pm
Tues 27th January: Spurs (away) kick-off: 8pm
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Date:Friday January 9 2009
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