Under-pressure from his own supporters and battling to protect Stoke’s Premier League status; this isn’t the campaign Tony Pulis envisaged. The Potters boss has been forced to bat away questions and rumours regarding his future all week despite watching his side ease the growing at the Britannia Stadium with a crucial win at struggling QPR in their last outing. That 2-0 success, only their second in 15 games, lifted Stoke to within three points of the 40-point safety threshold and another win will guaranteed them a place in the top-flight next season.
Norwich are also looking to crash through that survival barrier after beating bottom of the table Reading last Saturday to move onto 38 points. The assurance of a third consecutive season in the top-flight is now within touching for Chris Hughton and his players – all they have to do is go out and snatch it. The Canaries have enjoyed an indifferent first term under Hughton’s guidance with a 10-match unbeaten sequence, that ended just before Christmas, followed by a run of one win in 16 prior to victory over the Royals.
Matthew Etherington (back) looks set to return for Stoke but defender Marc Wilson (hamstring), midfielder Charlie Adam (ankle) and striker Cameron Jerome (ankle) all require fitness checks before being passed fit.
Norwich must do without one half of their first choice defensive pairing after Michael Turner was ruled out with a groin injury. Ryan Bennett will start in his place, while Leon Barnett has been recalled from a loan spell at Cardiff. Goalkeeper John Ruddy is back after spending five-months out with a thigh injury.
What the managers said…
“We sat there for three or four hours chatting away about everything, and he never mentioned anything about whether I was leaving or not. If I was going to walk away then I would have told him by now, and I certainly didn’t mention anything about walking away. Tony Pulis disputes suggestions he will leave Stoke before the season ends (Guardian Sport)
“We know we’re almost there because we’ve got 38 points. But I think it’s going to take more, I really do, because Wigan are a good side. They’re capable of winning games, as are all the teams around us. I think we’ll certainly need more points than what we’ve got now. We’ve got four games to do it.” Chris Hughton has warned his Norwich side that 38 points won’t be enough for survival (BBC Sport)
Pre-match Statistic: Stoke and Norwich have managed just two wins 2013 – the Premier League’s joint fewest.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-0 Norwich City