Stoke City Manager Alex Neil says the challenge for his side is to establish their position in the Championship’s top half following the opening third of the 23/24 campaign.
The Potters are four matches unbeaten and Neil’s side will target matching their five-game unbeaten run of March and April this year, when a 4-0 victory at the Coventry Building Society Arena saw the Potters reach the same tally for the first time in almost two years.
City are yet to finish in the top half in five seasons in the second tier and Neil maintains that has to be the next hurdle for his side to overcome.
“We have had the week where we performed extremely well and delivered some really strong performances against three of the top teams in the league, now we have a good opportunity in this one to go and get another good result,” Neil explained.
“Consistency at this level is always difficult, especially when you have played as well as we did in those three matches, but we want to achieve that as much as we can and be consistent in performances and results.
“We go into this game four matches unbeaten, which is good, but there is a glass ceiling for us in terms of getting into the top half and staying there consistently, which has to be our first aim.
“How we achieve that is by winning games like this one and, if we do, it should solidify us in the top half the table.”
Stoke City have used 20 first team players during their four-match unbeaten run, and manager Alex Neil believes that competition for places has been a key factor in their recent success.
Neil has broadly named the same starting XI for each match, with the exception of the Potters’ 2-0 win at Middlesbrough, in which he made five changes. However, he says that all of his players are champing at the bit to get into the team, and that this competition is healthy and beneficial for the squad.
Neil also believes that the ability to bring strong players off the bench is vitally important, and that this was shown in the Middlesbrough match, where the likes of Josh Laurent came in and performed extremely well.
This competition and depth of squad gives Neil confidence that his team can win any game, regardless of who plays.
Stoke City’s next opponents, Coventry City, are on a five-match winless run, but Neil is warning his players that Saturday’s game will be a tough one. He says that Coventry will be desperate to get back to winning ways before the international break, and that Stoke City will need to match their desire and intensity.
Neil is also hoping that his team can produce a performance similar to their 4-0 victory over Coventry last season. He says that that performance was one of his favourite away performances of the season, and that if Stoke City can get anywhere close to that level, he will be very pleased.
Neil knows that it will be a different game to what Stoke City have faced in recent weeks, but he says that his players are up for the challenge. He is confident that they can get a result and continue their fine month.