Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Thursday January 4 2007
The Potters make a belated start to the New Year with a home FA Cup third round tie to League 1 side, Millwall.
The Lions sit just above the relegation zone in 19th position and will looking to the FA Cup to provide some welcome relief from any relegation worries.
Stoke have an unenviable record in Cup competitions in recent years, but after taking two attempts to knock out Conference side, Tamworth in the FA Cup last season they progressed to the fifth round before losing 1-0 to Birmingham. This season, normal service was resumed with a defeat at Doncaster in the Carling Cup.
But their form has improved since those dark days back in August and they should be confident of progressing to the fourth round.
But you can't forget that cup runs are most definitely not the Potters' forte.
As underdogs, Millwall know they have nothing to lose, a fact that has not been lost on the Stoke players and new signing Liam Lawrence in particular. He told the official website: 'It is going to be a very tough game. They always battle and will giving 100% for their manager. You don't take any team for granted in the lower leagues because on their day, they can beat you.'
With both Hendrie and Berger now returned home to Villa Park, Stoke will give a rare start to former Millwall player, Peter Sweeney. Salif Diao has been given permission to play by Liverpool and will also start, but Carl Dickinson is cup-tied having played in the first two rounds whilst on loan at Blackpool.
With Diao now the only remaining member of the loan players that have characterised Stoke's good progress since the start of October, he needs to ensure that his normal midfield reliability is in evidence as the Potters look to avoid another lower league banana skin.
Defender, Alan Dunne is suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season on Boxing Day.
Also missing will be on-loan duo Liam Trotter (Ipswich)and Charlie Lee (Spurs) as their clubs do not want to them to be cup-tied.
Experienced striker, Darren Byfield joined last summer from Gillingham and has seven goals to his name in the League this season.
Stoke have won the last four matches against Millwall, who were relegated to League 1 at the end of last season. Last time, Stoke ran out 2-1 winners at the Britannia Stadium in February 2006, which marked their first win of 2006.
Sat 13th Jan: Wolves (home) kick-off: 3pm
Sat 20th Jan: Preston (away) kick-off: 3pm
Tue 30th Jan: Ipswich (home) kick-off: 7.45pm
Date:Thursday January 4 2007
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