Stoke City ready for Sunderland test

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STOKE boss Mark Hughes was unperturbed about his side being drawn into the verbal battle between Chelsea and Manchester City, according to his assistant Mark Bowen.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini was dismissive of Chelsea’s tactics at Etihad Stadium, branding the table-toppers a “small team” and likening their methods to those employed by the Potters in their surprise 1-0 win in August.

It would be easy for Stoke to be unhappy about being used as the Chilean’s benchmark for negativity, but Bowen insisted Hughes was happy to be compared to a side who are three points clear at the Barclays Premier League summit.

“Mark took it as a compliment. If Jose Mourinho went with the same tactics as us, we can’t be doing a lot wrong,” said Bowen.

“I don’t think it was meant as a degrading comment to Stoke City.

“Pellegrini was maybe just protecting himself because it’s been a while since they have won at home.

“At least he still remembers Stoke City - and I hope he remembers us the next time we play them as well.

“If he used the word ‘team’ it’s nice to be called small because Stoke have been called a giant team in the past.”

The shock success in Manchester was Stoke’s last win, having lost at home to Leicester and drawn 2-2 with QPR at the weekend.

They have the chance to get back on track in the Capital One Cup third round at Sunderland tonight.

The Black Cats have yet to win in the league this term, but saw off Birmingham City 3-0 in the previous round of the cup.

Bowen said: “We have watched Sunderland a couple of times. They have had a similar start to us with a slow start at home but you only have to look at the players they have available to know it will be a tough game.”

The Potters are likely to make several changes for the match, with Jack Butland and Thomas Sorensen vying for Asmir Begovic’s spot in goal and the likes of Robert Huth, Marc Muniesa, Oussama Assaidi and Stephen Ireland all looking for game time.

“We have a number of players eager to get a game and force their way into the team,” said Bowen.