Stoke chief Tony Pulis full of respect for Norwich City
Stoke boss Tony Pulis insists the Canaries are virtually assured of Premier League survival.
The Potters' chief is in no doubt the two clubs will meet again in top flight combat next season ahead of tomorrow's test at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis' men brushed Swansea aside at home last weekend but the experienced manager knows Norwich present a clear threat.
'To come up so quickly from the third tier of English football and then do well enough to virtually assure that they will have another season in the Premier League is a fantastic achievement,' he said. 'They've got some quality players who are relishing playing in the Premier League and they're playing with no inhibitions. Whereas Swansea have won many plaudits with their passing game, there's more strength, power and pace to Norwich's approach. They've got players who can really hurt you and they're very buoyant at the moment. This is at the Britannia Stadium, however, so it's up to us to take the game to them and while we'll need a big performance from the players, we'll also need one from our supporters too in getting right behind the team again.'
Pulis describes Norwich's visit as 'massive' in the context of a daunting upcoming spell which includes trips to Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham in successive away matches prior to the visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
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'It's an incredibly tough period for us and that makes Saturday's game a massive one,' he said. 'You accept that there will be difficult spells over the course of a season, but that run of four matches is especially tough. Nevertheless, they're big, big games against great clubs and we have to remember that it's not so long ago that this football club went more than 20 years without such occasions. So bring them on; we'll enjoy the challenge. The important thing right now is to make sure we go into that period with a good result under our belts, but that won't be easy either. Anyone turning up here, thinking it'll be a stroll in the park, will be in for a mighty shock.'
Pulis was forced to play down rumours a rift with Jermaine Pennant earlier this week after the former Liverpool wide player has found himself behind youngster Ryan Shotton in the pecking order.
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'Anything I do with players, it is between me and the players, but there are no problems,' he said. 'I have a lad called Ryan Shotton who I thought was outstanding against Swansea and is playing well. I have been criticised at this football club for not playing young players, or for playing certain players and not others.'