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Norwich City-Stoke City Preview
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Stoke City face a tough challenge at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon when they play a Norwich City side on course for a top-ten finish.
Norwich have successfully followed the Potters' blueprint for becoming a competitive Premier League side, and in striker Grant Holt the Canaries have a goal-scorer who is pushing for a place in England's summer squad.
"I remember a couple of seasons back Kevin Davies getting a call-up late on to the squad and there is no reason why Grant can't do that," said Holt's fellow striker, Steve Morison. "In that kind of mould he is the best player in the Premier League at the moment in that position. If they're looking for someone to be a bit of a handful and be a different option to what they have got, then why not?
"He has had a fantastic season and I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with him. Grant's scored against Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea. Everyone deserves a chance and he is knocking on the door with his performances, that is all you can do."
Out of Europe and in the bottom half of the Premier League, Stoke's fortunes appeared to take a further hit amidst reports of a bust-up between manager Tony Pulis and winger Jermaine Pennant, but Pulis took the opportunity of the pre-match press conference to deny the rumours.
"Anything I do with players, it is between me and the players, but there are no problems," insisted Pulis. "I have a lad called Ryan Shotton who I thought was outstanding against Swansea and is playing well. He is a young lad, born and bred in Stoke-on-Trent.
"I have been criticised at this football club for not playing young players, or for playing certain players and not others. That is just what happens - it is part and parcel of the game and you have to accept it and get on with it.
"The thing all managers do is pick teams to win games, because if they don't win games they don't keep their jobs. So I pick a team that I think is going to win a game of football, whether I like players, dislike them or think they are good or bad for the group.
"There will be people who want to make an issue of it because it is Jermaine. If so, fine, but there isn't an issue with me and he has not been in to see me. He has got on with it and trained well, so it's fine - not a problem."
Stoke have Mamady Sidibe missing for the rest of the season with a knee injury, while Norwich are without goalkeeper Declan Rudd (ankle). Marc Tierney and Daniel Ayala face late fitness tests.
Stoke's win over Swansea last weekend was their first in six in the Premier League and first in four at the Britannia. Norwich have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home this season but have won three of their last four on the road. Stoke have managed the fewest passes, fewest shots and fewest shots on targets of all the Premier League clubs this season.
Updated March 1, 2012