Everton v Stoke preview: Tony Pulis admits lack of concentration is behind Potters' dire away form

 

Stoke manager Tony Pulis is calling for greater concentration from his players in away games.

Ahead of tomorrow's Barclays Premier League clash at Everton, the Potters have lost five successive top-flight away fixtures and managed only one win in their last 24, a sequence stretching back to January 2012.

Those statistics are in stark contrast to their record at home, where they have been beaten just twice in 22 league matches.

Pulis insists his side - currently 11th in the table - have generally performed well on the road this term and that they have frequently not been rewarded with the results they deserve.

He does, however, believe they need to do better in ensuring they maintain their focus for the entire duration of away contests.

Pulis said: “From the first game of the season, where we played at Reading (a 1-1 draw) and they scored a late penalty, to the last away game at Newcastle (a 2-1 defeat), where we should have been home and hosed (but conceded two goals towards the end), we have managed to shoot ourselves in the foot.

“We have done that continuously.

“Every time away from home, it is about concentration levels as much as anything.

“In the Premier League, if you switch off for two minutes or do something silly, nine times out of 10, you get caught.

“So concentration levels are vital, although it is also important they enjoy themselves - make sure they go out there and express themselves, and work really hard.”

Although Stoke are on a poor run, having taken just five points from the last 30 on offer, there are reasons for encouragement as they go into tomorrow's game.

Pulis looks set to have a full squad to select from, with Robert Huth back available after completing a three-match ban, while Everton have two key men suspended in Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar.

Another potential boost for the Potters is the knowledge they have only lost once in their past seven meeting with the Toffees, and Pulis says his team will certainly approach the encounter in a positive frame of mind.

He has also stressed, though, that sixth-placed Everton will provide a stern test even without Fellaini and Pienaar, and emphasised that Stoke's four remaining home games are the ones he really regards as being key as they strive towards their target of 40 points, the total widely viewed as being that which guarantees survival.

“We have got four big games at home and they are the ones in which we are really looking to pick the points up and do well,” Pulis said.

“We will go to Everton and be as positive as we can, but it is the four games at home that are massive for us.

“We want to get to 40 points as quickly as we can and get everyone settled down again.

“The Everton game will be one of our toughest games, without a question of a doubt.

“Everybody will talk about Fellaini and Pienaar not playing, but they have got some (other) outstanding players.

“They have got (Victor) Anichebe, (Nikica) Jelavic, (Kevin) Mirallas, (Leon) Osman, (Leighton) Baines, (Sylvain) Distin - it looks as if (Phil) Jagielka might have a chance of being fit as well. They have a very, very good squad there.”

Stoke - on 34 points, seven clear of 18th-placed Wigan, who have a game in hand - play seven more matches after the Everton contest.

They follow up tomorrow's clash with a home double-header against Aston Villa and Manchester United, and also host Norwich and Tottenham, with their remaining away fixtures taking them to QPR, Sunderland and Southampton.

PA

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