Stoke City v Arsenal: Will Potters have one eye on Wembley?
Stoke City have confounded the critics again and are likely to finish in the top 10 in the Premier League.
Ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, they are joint ninth, with a far superior goal difference to their nearest rivals West Bromwich Albion.
But they also have their eyes on their first major trophy since the 1972 League Cup when they take on Manchester City in the FA Cup final on May 14.
The scramble for cup final tickets began in the Potteries this week, but Pulis has a headache of his own with three key players definitely out on Sunday – and all likely to miss out at Wembley.
Danny Higginbotham (knee), Ricardo Fuller (Achilles) and Matthew Etherington (hamstring) are all on the treatment table, with only Etherington in with a chance of playing in his second cup final, after turning out for West Ham in their defeat to Liverpool in 2006.
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Now there are places up for grabs, but Pulis has been delighted that his side has not been distracted since their astonishing 5-0 semi- final victory over Bolton Wanderers – the biggest margin of victory in the last four of the competition since 1939.
“People were saying after Saturday’s game at Blackpool that they couldn’t believe how committed our lads were in the circumstances,” said Pulis.
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“We are trying to build a spirit of honesty and commitment that we want to be identified with – and you have to say our lads have that in abundance.”
Midfielder Glenn Whelan, a �500,000 signing from Sheffield Wednesday back in 2008, typifies the hard-working ethos enveloping the Britannia Stadium.
He added: “That was the massive thing after the semi-final. The manager was saying he wanted to finish in the top 10 and in the last three games we’ve got three positive results. Hopefully, we can keep the form going right to the end of the season.”
The Gunners have won their last four league games against Stoke and need three points to keep their faint title hopes alive. A point will confirm a top four finish.
Ham&High Sport Verdict: Arsenal are buoyed after last week’s victory and with the FA Cup final only a week away, Stoke with hopefully have their minds on Wembley.
Arsenal to win – 3-1.