Football: Macari makes ready to repel Newcastle


The Stoke City manager, Lou Macari, is not even attempting to play down the magnitude of the task facing his side in Coca-Cola Cup at the Victoria Ground tonight.

The Potteries club proved they have the ability to better a Premiership side when they won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the last round to oust Chelsea from the competition. Their reward was a tie against Kevin Keegan's Premiership leaders, Newcastle United, and Macari is suitably forthright in his estimation of their abilities: "They are the best and most talented side in Britain."

Macari, who hopes the defender Lee Sandford will recover from the head injury sustained in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Derby, said: "Kevin has done a great job to piece together a tremendous team. He's brought in a Belgian, a Frenchman, a couple of talented youngsters and a measure of experience. They've knitted together superbly and that doesn't always happen.

"His team resembles Kevin's attributes as a player. They fly about and keep popping up here, there and everywhere."

If Stoke are to cause an upset, they will need to do what the last seven sides to face Les Ferdinand have failed to achieve - stop him from scoring. The pounds 6.5m striker, with 15 goals from just 12 starts, will break Newcastle's club record if he makes it eight successive scoring games.

Robert Lee and Lee Clark have recovered from injuries picked up in the 6-1 demolition of Wimbledon and, despite the claims of Philippe Albert, Scott Sellars, Steve Watson, Paul Kitson and Marc Hottiger, Keegan is expected to name an unchanged side.

Another big crowd is expected at the Baseball Ground, where Derby, with the side on duty at the weekend, play host to Leeds United. Howard Wilkinson, the Yorkshire club's manager, could again be without Gary Speed and Tony Dorigo - Andy Couzens and Nigel Worthington will deputise - and his Derby counterpart, Jim Smith, has promised a highly competitive match.

"The atmosphere for cup games at Derby is always special and I know the fans will do their bit - now it's up to us to do ours," Smith said.

The cup holders, Liverpool, are again without the suspended Rob Jones for their Anfield tie with Manchester City, with Jason McAteer, in the Bolton side beaten at Wembley in April, filling in at right-back. Roy Evans again leaves out Stan Collymore - Ian Rush partners Robbie Fowler up front - and Neil Ruddock.

The City midfielder Garry Flitcroft is struggling to overcome the shin and injuries sustained in the goalless draw with Leeds. The left-back, Terry Phelan, is ruled out, as is Peter Beagrie and the cup-tied Gerry Creaney. Alan Ball adds John Foster and Michael Brown to his squad.

Savo Milosevic returns to the Aston Villa side for their game with Second Division Stockport. The pounds 3.5m striker was the victim of Brian Little's decision to play with just one forward at Arsenal on Saturday but the Villa manager confirmed he would play against the Edgeley Park side, who upset Ipswich in the second round.