Belfast Telegraph

Hughes hoping for more home help

Mark Hughes hopes Stoke's fans can help them get back on track when Arsenal visit the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

Potters fans enjoy nothing more than beating Arsenal and always give Gunners manager Arsene Wenger - a critic of their style of play under previous boss Tony Pulis - a 'warm' welcome.

The rowdy atmosphere has inspired Stoke in recent matches against Arsenal, with the Potters losing just one of the last eight clashes between the teams at the Britannia.

Keeping that run going would be particularly timely as Hughes' team look to end a run of three straight defeats.

"This fixture always seems to generate a really good atmosphere," said the Stoke boss.

"It started before my time I would suggest. It's an incredible atmosphere inside the stadium for matches like this and it takes a good team to deal with it.

"For the most part Arsenal are an outstanding team but in recent times we've done very well. The help we've had from our crowd has been part of that. It's a huge part when you're trying to get positive results. I enjoy coming up against them and I am sure the lads do, too.

"We are performing well at the moment - we just aren't converting our chances when they come along. From my experience in the game, these runs can't keep on going.

"If we play as well as we have done recently then we will soon start to win matches in a convincing manner, I am certain of that."

Hughes has plenty of injury problems to deal with but is hoping one or two players could be back, with Jonathan Walters and Robert Huth the most likely contenders.

"It is undoubtedly the worst run of injuries that I have had during my time at the club and, when you consider the fact that we have had a bout of illness going around the place too, we have been unfortunate," said Hughes.

"Stephen Ireland has picked a bit of illness up disappointingly, because we thought we had seen the last of that."

Wenger is confident his side can cope with whatever awaits them at Stoke, but could do without "exaggerated" pre-match comments aimed at turning up the heat.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross - whose horror tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the Gunners' midfielder with a double leg break - claims the home fans "dislike" of Arsenal will lead to a "tasty game" at the Britannia Stadium.

Wenger - who once labelled Stoke's tactics under Pulis as "rugby on the goalkeepers" - believes his side must concentrate on their own game rather than worry about what they might face both on and off the pitch.

"I think that is exaggerated. It is a football game, it is not a hate game. You want to focus on playing football," said Wenger, whose side have just one win at Stoke from seven matches since 2008.

"Stoke is always a tough and very committed place to go, but we prepare ourselves to be at the level of our commitment and dictate the way we want to play. The most important thing is to not forget how we play our game.

"They have a little bit of a different style (under new manager Hughes), but against us it is always a very committed game anyway."

Wenger added: "We are in a job where you have risks. The physical risk is part of our job, we accept that.

"What you want is to go into a game with everybody being 100 per cent committed, but fair. After, you accept that any accident can happen.

"You do not want to have any suspicions before the match starts, that is not very good."

Arsenal have some defensive worries, with Nacho Monreal having suffered ankle ligament damage early on against the Saints, and so could be out for a few weeks.

Centre-back Laurent Koscielny will be assessed on his inflamed Achilles.

Full-back Mathieu Debuchy is close to a return from three months recovery from an ankle injury, and may be taken to Istanbul for next week's Champions League tie at Galatasaray.

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