Writer: Tom Mckeon
Date:Thursday October 20 2011
The Britannia Stadium
20th October 2011
Stoke entertain Israeli giants Maccabi Tel-Aviv tonight, hoping to maintain an unbeaten start to their first ever Europa League campaign.
The Potters are currently sitting top of Group E after an impressive 2-1 win over Turkish side Besiktas and they'll be targeting another victory tonight against a team who many believe to be the group's whipping boys.
Tel Aviv are languishing at the bottom of the table with just one point, but a draw at home to Dynamo Kiev in their last fixture suggests they must be taken seriously - despite receiving a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Besiktas.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis faces an almighty task of juggling his squad of players through a period which will see the Potters play 3 games in 6 days.
However, whilst he maintains he will use his squad, he won't be holding back with his selection tonight.
Pulis told stokecityfc.com 'We will be putting out a strong side because winning our home games in this group is the key to us qualifying for the next stage.
'But it's the squad that will make us successful so we need to change things around a bit.'
Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones has been deemed 50/50 to start tonight's game as he recovers from a niggling hamstring injury.
Thomas Sorenson is expected to come in for Asmir Begovic, whilst Robert Huth, Dean Whitehead, Cameron Jerome and Ryan Shotton are all expected to feature after being on the bench against Fulham
But Wilson Palacios is expected to be sidelined.
The 28-year-old winger set up both goals in Stoke's 2-0 win over Fulham at the weekend and looks to be recapturing the form which saw him torment defences last year.
Expect the former West Ham man to do the damage against untried opponents.
Brazilian star Nivaldo and his central defensive partner Savo Pavicevic have both been ruled out so Maccabbi are clearly struggling in the defensive department.
Maccabi will also have to face the Britannia test without their skipper Barak Itzhaki.
The bosnian number 10 has quality on the ball, if anyone is to hurt Stoke it'll most probably be him.
I have to be honest, I don't have a clue about any of the Maccabi Tel Aviv players, but European refs always a good watch so expect a few controversial decisions tonight.
Stoke 2-0 If Stoke are to progress, they'll have to make the most of tonight. And I expect them to come through without too many problems, we'll have to respect the Israeli side but if we're firing we should have far too much.
Stoke travel to Arsenal on Sunday, the Potters narrowly lost 1-0 in the fixture last season.
Date:Thursday October 20 2011
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