Stoke make their debut in the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday, with Spain’s unofficial third team, Valencia, standing in their way.
Tony Pulis’s men started their European journey way back in July with a 1-0 win over Hadjuk Split, and now have the opportunity to write a new chapter in the club’s history in what is surely one of the biggest game in Stoke’s history.
However the Potters come up against a Valencia side still smarting from their Copa del Rey semi-final loss against Barcelona last week, and Unai Emery’s side will be looking to make amends for that defeat by winning the trophy they last claimed back in 2004.
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Having struggled to assimilate their domestic form with their excursions on the continent earlier in the season, Stoke looked to have mastered the balancing act but have seen their league form dip significantly of late.
The Potters have managed just one league win in 2012 while succumbing to consecutive defeats in their least four outings, a run of form that has seen the slump to 13th in the league table having been as high as 8th at the time of their last Europa League outing against Besiktas.
Apart from their Copa del Rey setback Valencia have had no such problems with their form, and currently occupy 3rd spot in La Liga, although Stoke will be encouraged by the fact that their opponents on Thursday have drawn three of their last four league games.
Stoke have no new injury worries going into the game, although Pulis does have some tough calls to make when picking his starting XI.
Asmir Begovic and Robert Huth, whose three game ban does not include European games, are the only certain starters for the game at the Britannia Stadium, while Peter Crouch is likely to be preferred in attack and Ryan Shawcross is expected to get the nod to start alongside Huth at the back.
Stoke are defending a proud seven-match unbeaten home record in European competition stretching back to their UEFA Cup debut back in 1972 but will have to contend with a Valencia side that have lost only four league games all season and have the third best scoring record in Spain.