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Stoke can claim the scalp of Mourinho and Tottenham in Carabao Cup clash, maintains O'Neill

 

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Killer blow: Michael O’Neill is sure Stoke can pull off another giant-killing against Spurs

Killer blow: Michael O’Neill is sure Stoke can pull off another giant-killing against Spurs

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Killer blow: Michael O’Neill is sure Stoke can pull off another giant-killing against Spurs

Stoke boss Michael O'Neill believes his players can produce another giant-killing act in the Carabao Cup tonight.

The Potters are seventh in the Championship and have already beaten Premier League sides Wolves and Aston Villa in their Cup run.

Tonight's quarter-final sees O'Neill, who guided Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals in France, pit his wits against Jose Mourinho and Tottenham.

Spurs are chasing a first major trophy since 2008 and Mourinho will field a mixed side at the bet365 Stadium.

"That's the message we have to hammer home to the players," said O'Neill when asked about flooring another top side.

"We did very well, particularly (against) Villa when we played extremely well. It will be a tough test but a game where we've everything to gain, and that's how we'll approach it.

"Whatever team they put out, given the quality in their squad and depth of their squad, it's going to present a huge challenge to us, but we can't focus too much on that. Our focus has to be on our game and making life difficult for them, making it an uncomfortable night for them.

"I suppose this is an early Christmas present. If we can win this game it will lead to another game against another high calibre team.

"Having come this far in the competition, we want to make sure we give everything possible. The fact that the game is 90 minutes and we don't have the thought of dealing with extra-time helps.

"What we've proven is that we've beaten two Premier League teams in the four games we've played to get to this stage and that gives us belief we can do the same again."

Spurs head to the Championship club knowing they are three games away from winning the competition, with a one-legged semi-final and a showpiece final waiting if they can get past Stoke.

On paper that represents their best chance of ending their long trophy drought, and Mourinho's rich history in this competition, which he has won three times before, will stand them in good stead.

But the Portuguese knows with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton still possibly standing in their way, it will not be an easy job to bring the silverware back to north London.

"To win this tournament we need to win three matches," he said.

"One against Stoke and then, if we beat Stoke, we will have two more matches to play against teams who have the same ambitions as we have.

"If I am not wrong, Man City, Man United, Everton, Brentford, everybody wants the same.

"The difference between the Championship and the Premier League is minimal. The teams are very good, they have very good players and have very good coaches.

"So even the fact that we play Stoke, or Newcastle play Brentford (yesterday evening, Brentford won 1-0), does not give us easier matches than the others.

"It is a difficult competition to win. We need to win three matches.

"But going in the direction from what we are saying from the beginning of the season, the next match is a match we want to win, and the next match is Stoke."

Belfast Telegraph


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