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Preview: Stoke City v Blues

They’ll be doing their utmost to secure a couple of wins to stay up and we've got to make sure that's not at our expense.

Steve Spooner

Our full match preview ahead of Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship fixture between Stoke City and Blues at the bet365 Stadium (1.30pm kick-off).

Steve Spooner on the things he and Craig Gardner have been working on in their short time with the First Team...
"There are things that we felt we'd be better at as a team if we tweaked one or two things. It can’t be wholesale because we haven't had the time. And on top of that tiredness and fatigue play a part. We've had to try and get a balance which hasn't been easy, but we're trying to do the best with it that we can. We certainly won't be blinding them with science that's for sure."

Steve Spooner on the feedback he and the other coaches have had from the players...
"The feedback has been that pre-lockdown 'we were doing this and doing that, and we weren't far away but for some reason something has gone amiss'. The one big thing is a lack of confidence. It's down to us to try and get that confidence back. You've got to expect a lack of confidence after conceding 15 goals in the last five home games. We've got to try and address that and give them confidence on the ball to go and express themselves and be creative."

Steve Spooner's assessment of what the team ultimately needs to do to get 'over the line' this season...
"Confidence is a massive thing and it is so important they get that belief back in themselves and in their teammates. And obviously if you stop conceding goals then you have a platform to build on. The important thing for us is to try and stay in games as long as we can. Within that it's not just about being defensive. We want to have a go at teams as well."

Steve Spooner asked how much Stoke's 5-0 thrashing by Leeds might affect their confidence...
"I've been in teams and managed teams and it can go one of two ways. There have been games where you're looking for a response and you don't get it and sometimes you change the team and formation around and you get the kind of response you want and go on a run. They (Stoke) are a great football club with some excellent professionals. They’ll be doing their utmost to secure a couple of wins to stay up and we've got to make sure that's not at our expense."

Stoke manager Michael O'Neill's comments ahead of the game...
"We’ve four games left, four games to save ourselves. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to freshen up the squad that much to be honest. We have to look at what we have, the players that have got what we believe is the best team to start. For us, really the Birmingham game was always going to be a hugely important game, as will the other three games. In the situation we’re in we can’t really pick and choose what games and what team we’ll play; you have to play the team in front of you and try to take something from each and every game.“

Blues team news...
There are no new injury concerns following Wednesday’s home game against Swansea City. Josh McEachran is still recovering from his knee injury.

Stoke team news...
Ryan Shawcross missed Thursday's defeat against Leeds because of injury and will be assessed ahead of Sunday's game. James Chester was rested for the Leeds match but should return. Joe Allen, Tom Edwards and Thibaud Verlinden are all set to miss out for the Potters. Former Blues stopper Jack Butland is likely to be in goal for the hosts.

Last five meetings between Stoke and Blues...
Championship 31 Aug 2019 Blues 2 Stoke 1
Championship 26 Dec 2018 Blues 2 Stoke 0
Championship 20 Oct 2018 Stoke 0 Blues 1
Capital One Cup 29 Oct 2013 Blues 4 Stoke 4
Premier League 12 Feb 2011 Blues 1 Stoke 0

Total meetings between Stoke and Blues...
Stoke wins: 40
Draws: 23
Blues wins: 35

Form guide last five Championship games...
Stoke: DLLWL
Blues: DDLLL

Line-ups last game...
Leeds United v Stoke: Butland, Batth, Cousins, Smith, Collins (Chester 45), Martins Indi, Clucas (Thompson 82), Powell (Sorensen 75), McClean, Campbell (Gregory 61),Vokes (Diouf 62).
Subs (not used): Davies, Ward, Lindsay, Ince.

Blues v Swansea City: Camp, Pedersen, Roberts, Clarke-Salter, Colin, Gardner, Sunjic, Crowley, Bela (Reid, 76), Jutkiewicz, Hogan (Bellingham, h/t).
Subs (not used): Trueman, Harding, Gordon, Dean, Kieftenbeld, Boyd-Munce, Stirk.

BluesTV...
Season Ticket holders who chose the BluesTV compensation option will be able to watch this game. Due to Sky Sports broadcasting live on Sunday, the game will NOT be available on a pay-per-view basis.

Match officials...
Referee Scott Duncan will take charge of Sunday's game at the bet365 Stadium. So far this season the Northumberland-based official has refereed just three games, where he has produced a total of eight yellow cards, two reds and awarded one penalty. The last Blues game he refereed was our Championship away game against Preston North End in March 2019. Blues lost that match 1-0 and there were six players cautioned; Gary Gardner and Maikel Kieftenbeld. Mr Duncan has refereed ten Blues games in total, with Blues winning five of them, drawing two and losing three. The last Stoke game he took charge of was their Championship away fixture at Ipswich Town in February 2019. Stoke drew that game 1-1 and Stoke's James McClean was the only player from either side to be cautioned. He has refereed three Stoke games during his career, with The Potters winning one, drawing one and losing one of them. Mr Duncan will be assisted on Sunday by Philip Dermott and Nigel Lugg, with Scott Oldham acting as the fourth official.

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