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Pulis seeks Europa League return

By Football News



Stoke City manager Tony Pulis says the club is targeting a return to European competition, despite the demands it places on a squad.

Pulis' team qualified for the 2011/12 Europa League courtesy of their runner-up finish in previous season's FA Cup, ultimately bowing out of UEFA competition over two legs against Valencia in the round of 32.

Stoke find themselves eighth mid-way through the 2012/13 campaign, just five points outside the top six and European qualification places.

"It's something we should aim for and I'm sure players and fans alike would relish the challenge if we ever got there again," Pulis said.

"That's not to overlook how tough it was with the number and timing of the games and how that affected our league form.

"It takes a lot to get used to games coming thick and fast on a Thursday and then a Sunday, not to mention the fact they kindly gave us away games in the league after virtually every away game in Europe - and they were long trips.

"But having the odds against us is what gets us going as a club, and that includes our fans."

Stoke's next obstacle is a home match against promoted Southampton, who could also find themselves in contention for a Europa League spot by virtue of their position at the top of the Premier League's Fair Play table.

Top flight survival remains the priority however for Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, who wants his team to maintain their clean disciplinary record for more obvious reasons.

"The only way we can beat Stoke is by playing good football," Adkins said.

"If you give away stupid free-kicks you are playing to their strengths and will get punished.

"We are proud of disciplinary record, although I have not even thought about it taking us into Europe."