Crouch Stoked by glamour tie with Valencia
STRIKER Peter Crouch insists Stoke will relish the chance to take on European giants Valencia rather than be cowed by it.
The Spaniards visit the Britannia Stadium tonight for the first leg of their Europa League |last-32 clash, with Stoke travelling out to the Mestalla next week.
Valencia finished third behind Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen in their Champions League group before Christmas and were one of the biggest sides Stoke could have drawn in their first European campaign for 37 years.
Crouch said: “Everyone’s looking forward to it. There’s not been many opportunities in previous seasons to play the likes of Valencia at the Britannia.
“Everyone wants to play in it and it’s a big, big game for the football club.
“It’s going to be a massive test for us. There’s some top sides in this competition and you’ve got to play so many games to get to the final. But over two legs, a game against Valencia is great for the fans and the players as well.
“Everyone knows about Valencia and what they offer. They’re a top side, they move the ball very well, but that’s not to say we’ll be overawed by the occasion.
“It’ll be a test for us but, certainly at the Britannia, we’ll look to get a good result.”
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has used Crouch sparingly in the competition so far, choosing to keep him fresh for the Premier League, but it would be a surprise if the striker was not included tonight.
Crouch netted on both of his appearances in the group stages against Besiktas and Maccabi Tel Aviv, extending an already impressive European scoring record, and he is hoping to improve that still further against Valencia.
Both striker and club would have wished to go into the clash in better form, though, with Stoke on a four-match losing streak in the Premier League and Crouch without a goal in his last six games.
The 31-year-old said: “Whenever I’ve played in Europe, be it in the Champions League for Liverpool or the UEFA Cup for Portsmouth, I’ve always been very proud of the goals I’ve scored and long may that continue.
“We’ve lost a couple of games recently but we’ve not been playing badly and I certainly see us bouncing back, hopefully starting with Valencia we can get goals and play well, and that goes for me as well.”
Pulis will be without Matthew Upson following his sending-off in the last group game, but can pick fellow centre-back Robert Huth, who is serving a |three-match domestic |suspension.
Jonathan Woodgate and Danny Collins, who were left out of the squad for the first part of the European campaign, are now eligible while Asmir Begovic is expected to replace Thomas Sorensen in goal.
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