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Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones battling to start for Stoke City against Southampton
STRIKERS Kenwyne Jones and Peter Crouch are battling it out to bag a starting spot for Stoke and line up against former club Saints tomorrow.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has generally used either one or the other to lead the line for his side, with players playing in behind off of them in a similar type of formation to that which Saints have utilised.
Crouch, who scored 16 times for Saints in 33 appearances in the 2004/05 relegation season before moving to Liverpool for £7m, was the incumbent until he was forced out of the side when he lost three teeth in a November match with Newcastle.
That let in Jones – first brought to England by Saints where he scored 22 goals in 80 appearances for the club from 2004-2007 before a £6m move to Sunderland – who has come in and been in great form.
Jones started, and scored, in Stoke’s 3-1 midweek win over Liverpool but Crouch could replace him if Pulis decides to freshen things up for the visit of Saints.
He said: “Walts (Jonathan Walters) took his goals very well, while Kenwyne has done smashing again.
“Crouchy is chomping at the bit to get back in the side, but if Kenwyne keeps playing the way he is playing at the moment, it is extremely difficult to leave him out.
“If he plays to his maximum all the time, he is as much of a handful as any striker in the Premier League. He’s got everything in his locker, so it’s just getting him to do that. He certainly did that to great effect (against Liverpool) and I thought he was fantastic.”
Pulis is hoping Stoke will continue their impressive home form against Saints tomorrow but has a couple of absentees.
Both Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron will be suspended for the trip with Matthew Upson and Ryan Shotton set to deputise.
“It was a great result and a great performance,” said a delighted Pulis after the Liverpool win.
“The response to going a goal down was fantastic.
“It is probably the best team we have had, but we have to improve year on year at our own pace.
“I’m very, very pleased for Jon Walters.
“He epitomises everything we do at this football club. His attitude and commitment to the group is absolutely fabulous but he is a good player as well.
“It is full credit to the players. It is a very, very good night for us.
“It is our fifth year in the Premier League and we have had to spend a lot of money on the infrastructure of the club, so we have to take a gradual approach.”