Mark Hughes’ decision to make six changes paved the way for a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of champions Chelsea on Saturday, but the Stoke boss revealed he had one eye on the crunch clash with Newcastle.
With injuries depleting his defensive options and a huge game with Rafael Benitez’s fellow strugglers on New Year’s day, Hughes rung the changes at Stamford Bridge.
The effect was somewhat predictable – Stoke found themselves 3-0 down inside 23 minutes, and although the visitors battled hard, Chelsea wrapped up a big win thanks to goals from Willian and Davide Zappacosta in the second half .
But afterwards, Hughes insisted he had always been focusing on finishing the hectic current schedule with a home win on Monday – a game he expects to have Joe Allen, Xherdan Shaqiri and Kurt Zouma available for, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Eric Pieters also in contention.
“We were stretched,” he told a media conference. “What we had defensively was what you saw.
“We had two young lads [Josh Tymon and Tom Edwards] playing at a level way above where they’ve been playing in recent years. It’ll test them. The back four pairing hadn’t played together, from memory.
“It was always going to be difficult for us. Clearly, we made a poor start. There were collective errors and individual errors as well right through the game. It was difficult.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 30, 2017
“We knew we’d be stretched playing the reigning champions. I knew they’d have the quality to hurt us even with our best available 11, and we couldn’t get that out on the pitch.
“I made decisions I feel will help us with the game we have on Monday. We rested players carrying knocks who will be fresh and ready to go.
“The decisions weren’t easy but they were decisions I was prepared to make. It’s about getting the win against Newcastle now we hope we will get and then this Christmas period will have been a good return. It would be two wins, a draw and a defeat to Chelsea.”
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