The Stoke manager Tony Pulis has told his players they cannot be intimidated by Manchester City and must take the game to their opponents in today's FA Cup fifth round tie. The Potters manager believes some of his squad still have an inferiority complex when it comes to tackling the bigger Premier League teams. But in a cup competition where all that matters is winning, Pulis intends to attack Roberto Mancini's side from the off.
"I am looking to pick a positive team and go there to have a right go," he said. "It is very important we go there and be positive and the team I pick is not overawed by the occasion or the players they are playing against. "I think we have gone to one or two grounds and been a little bit in awe still this year. "But our away performances have been a lot better than last year and the only way to break the taboo is by winning.
"I'm sure the last thing Roberto Mancini wants - and we all want - is a draw so it's 'gloves off' because I think both sides will want a result one way or the other." Despite having beaten Arsenal in the last round Pulis said his side are still second favourites against City despite being an established Premier League side themselves. "It's going to be very difficult for us in a game against one of the richest clubs in the world," he said.
"But Manchester City have spent an absolute fortune on players and they will be expecting a return for that investment. "They've got two chances to do that by winning the cup or qualifying for the Champions League so there is that pressure on them, whereas we're the underdogs and we're looking forward to it." Pulis has freely admitted Premier League survival will always be his top aim for Stoke and he feels because so many other clubs take the same attitude the FA Cup has become something of a sideshow.
But while his side are still in it he will demand 100 per cent commitment from his players. "The priority for this club is to stay in the Premier League - people get fed up of hearing that from me," added Pulis. "You can't help but recognise the importance of Premier League football on clubs up and down the country and supporters. "I'm not just making this up. You just go to grounds and watch FA Cup ties and the stadiums are not full until the back end of the competition.
"That never used to happen, they used to be full all the time. "But that doesn't mean we won't be going to Manchester and giving it the best shot we can." Meanwhile, Mancini expects City's Wayne Bridge to play at the World Cup for England. With Ashley Cole ruled out for three months after breaking his ankle at Everton on Wednesday, Bridge is now first in line to replace the Chelsea left-back in next month's friendly with Egypt and possibly the World Cup itself, if Cole's recovery does not go as planned.
That has raised inevitable questions about Bridge's ability to play alongside deposed captain John Terry, given the recent furore over the pair's private lives. However, Mancini does not see a problem for his player in being involved in the team line-up. "He never told me that he wouldn't play for England," said the Italian. The national team is important. I have not spoken to him but I think, if he is picked, he will play. He is committed to playing for England," said Mancini.
"It is important for any player to play at the World Cup. It is important for their career, especially if they can play in the first XI." @Email:email@example.com