Sport : Football


27th April 2012, 01:19pm

Tony Pulis: Top half the target

Tony Pulis: Top half the target

Stoke manager Tony Pulis is calling for one final push to claim what he believes would be a deserved top-half finish.

The Potters have four games of a long but eventful campaign remaining, starting with the visit of Arsenal on Saturday.

Stoke have slipped to 14th in the Barclays Premier League but are well clear of the relegation issues concerning the bottom six and are just six points off seventh place.

Pulis wants to secure a top-10 finish for the first time since winning promotion in 2008 and feels that would be just reward for a season which has featured a lengthy Europa League run.

Pulis said: "It has been a long season for us - 52 games already - and we just hope and pray in the next four games we can pick up enough points to be where we deserve to be, and that is the top half of the table.

"The way the lads have worked this year after we started in July - their attitude and commitment has been fantastic - it would be lovely to finish with enough points to be in the top half.

"When it is all finished we will look back - it has been a long, long season, but it has been an exciting season and one I think everyone has enjoyed.

"What we need now is our supporters to raise the roof and the players to give it a right blast."

Pulis is not expecting a gentle run-in with the visit of Champions League hopefuls Arsenal followed by clashes with European-chasing Everton and relegation battlers QPR and Bolton.

The Welshman said: "Every game we play in is difficult but that is the way the Premier League is. It is a difficult four games.

"We have got to give it our best shot. If we do that and pick up the points, brilliant. If we don't, at least we'll have given it our best.

"We have three games at home so the supporters can play a big part. It will be a great atmosphere for the next three games."

Pulis would take great satisfaction from frustrating the Gunners with Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea having already dropped points at the Britannia Stadium this season.

Pulis said: "Our home form against the so-called 'top-six' clubs has been very good.

"I think it is the first season we have gone through without getting beaten by one of the top clubs at our place. It would be nice to take that on tomorrow."

Pulis is looking for a strong reaction against Arsene Wenger's men after a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle last week.

Stoke have beaten the Londoners in three of their last four meetings, in all competitions, at the Britannia but Pulis insists that counts for nothing.

He said: "That is the past. We have got to make sure we turn up tomorrow and work as hard as we can to deny them space in areas where they are dangerous and still be a threat going forward, which we have managed to do this season.

"It will be a great game at the Brit, it usually is against Arsenal.

"The supporters enjoy the occasion when we play the cream of the Premier League, and Arsenal are certainly part of that cream.

"Their record since Christmas is as good as anybody's in the Premier League.

"Obviously they have got some fantastic players and it will be a great game."

Chief among Stoke's tasks will be to cancel out the threat of newly-named player of the year Robin van Persie, who has scored 34 times this season.

Pulis said: "His goal record is phenomenal. He is a top, top player and he has proved that again this year.

"Even when Arsenal were struggling he still had the capabilities, the qualities, to pull them through games by himself.

"It is right he has picked up the award, he certainly deserves it."

Stoke will be without defender Andy Wilkinson due to a groin injury but Pulis is hopeful he will feature again this season.

He said: "He won't play tomorrow and I don't think he'll be fit for Everton on Tuesday either but it has to be a proper injury for Wilko to miss out and we'll see if he is available for QPR and Bolton."

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