Stoke boss Mark Hughes is looking for players to seize their opportunity when he shuffles his pack for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round trip to Doncaster.
Having named the same first XI for each of the Potters’ four games since Christmas and with a Barclays Premier League clash against Norwich coming four days after this tie, Hughes has confirmed he will ring the changes at the weekend to hand some of his players a break.
Stoke have opened 2016 with back-to-back defeats and the manager is eager for those coming in to make an impact that both halts the slide in results and ensures competition for regular starting places has been increased.
Hughes, whose side were beaten 1-0 at home by Liverpool in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg, said ahead of the clash with Sky Bet League One Rovers: “There is only so many competitions we can realistically win and this is another one of them. We want to progress.
“We are on the back of a couple of defeats. Certainly the guys that come in will feel it is a good opportunity for them to impress and start knocking on the door of the first team again.
“That is what I expect the reaction to be, so I am looking forward it.
“Doncaster will have nothing to lose, so can have a real go.
“They will hope to get an upset and make the headlines.
“But it is up to us to make sure we don’t allow that. We are going to be strong – we might have different personnel but we should be strong enough.”
Our Cheeky Punt has picked Stoke as one of his potential patsies from this third round.
Hughes’ men suffered a shock 4-1 defeat to Championship side Blackburn in the FA Cup fifth round last season, and were taken to penalties by League Two Luton in the second round of this term’s League Cup.
The Welshman has stressed there is no danger of Stoke taking Saturday’s assignment lightly.
“We never underestimate lower-league opposition,” Hughes said.
“It is foolhardy to do that. We will give them due respect and hopefully the quality we have in the group will be enough.
“We are acquainting ourselves with the way they like to go and the individuals in their squad we need to be aware of.”
While Stoke – who finished 2015 with 11 victories and only three defeats in 17 games in all competitions – lie 10th in the Premier League, Doncaster are 11th in League One and in fine form.
Since ex-Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson took over as their boss in October, they have won nine out of 15 matches.
The Scot played under his father Sir Alex Ferguson and alongside Hughes at Manchester United in the early 1990s.
And Hughes said: “He had a great career as a player and certainly as a manager has really made his mark, although that shouldn’t surprise you given his pedigree.
“He is doing well again, going to Doncaster and making an impact on them. It is not an easy tie for us.”