Stoke City manager Mark Hughes believes his decision to give opportunities to fringe players in the League Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday was vindicated by his side’s 2-0 win.
Goals from Ibrahim Afellay and Phil Bardsley booked the Premier League club a place in the last four of the competition for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 1972.
Afellay made the most of his chance with his first goal since joining Stoke, with the Dutchman picked in a starting XI that showed five changes from the team that lost 2-0 at Sunderland on Saturday.
Hughes admitted his selections were with one eye on the upcoming fixture list, with the busy festive period fast approaching.
“I made the changes tonight not to disrespect the opposition but to give one or two of the lads who have done well for us an opportunity,” the Welshman told the club’s website.
“Given the run we have been on and the amount of matches we have played I thought that the game presented me with an opportunity to freshen things up a little bit
“We have a crucial period coming up with plenty of games over the Christmas and New Year period and it is vital not to burn anybody out at this time of the season.
“The players we brought in are all top players and they have proven themselves domestically and internationally too.
“It shows the strength of the group that we can make the amount of changes that we did and still be able to comfortably win a game against strong opposition.”