Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Friday February 16 2007
Stoke return to the Britannia Stadium with Luton Town the visitors this week. The Potters will be desperate to return to winning ways and climb back into the play-off zone. Luton have different problems, they sit just above the relegation zone after a poor run of form which has not seen them pick up a league win since before Christmas.
It's been all hands to the PR pump this week as Steve Simonsen, Danny Higginbotham and Darel Russell have all been pushing out the message that the players are still up for the fight.
New skipper, Danny Higginbotham said: 'We believe we've got as good a chance as anyone in there - certainly the players and the management team believe that,'
'I wouldn't say we are playing poor, we just haven't had that rub of the green you need to turn draws into victories.
'I've been looking at the points situation and it's not as cut and dried as people think. It just takes a few results to get us going again.
'Don't forget we were in the relegation zone in September, but then got ourselves into the top six. It's not a case of setting our hopes on the play-offs or automatic promotion, it's a case of winning as many matches as possible and then seeing where that gets us.'
The midfield trio of Lee Hendrie, Salif Diao and Darel Russell all return from suspension allowing Tony Pulis the luxury of being spoilt for choice with last week's midfield of Dominic Matteo, Lee Martin and John Eustace all still vying for a starting place.
Up front it's likely to be Ricardo Fuller and Mamady Sidibe (back from a trip to France after becoming a father in mid-week) with Adam Rooney on the bench as Vincent Pericard remains off with a knee injury.
This has to be a day for goals. With Stoke's midfield back to full strength, this is a golden opportunity for Fuller and Sidibe to start putting the goals in the back of the net.
Finnish international, Markus Heikkinen is set to return from a long term injury. Dean Morgan and Lewis Emanuel should also start after overcoming recent injuries.
The midfielder and Hatters' top goal scorer has just signed a new 2 year contract.
The first leg at the start of the season ended in a 2-2 draw at Kenilworth Road after the home side had fought back from 1-0 down with two quick second half goals, but Luke Chadwick saved the Potters a point.
Wed 21st Feb: Derby (away) kick-off: 7.45pm
Mon 26th Feb: Barnsley (home) kick-off: 7.45pm - SKY TV
Sat 3rd March: Plymouth Argyle (away) kick-off: 3pm
Date:Friday February 16 2007
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