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Espanyol boss Quique Sanchez Flores refuses to discuss Stoke link

Quique Sanchez Flores' one season in English football saw him guide Watford to 13th place in the Premier League and the FA Cup semi-finals
Quique Sanchez Flores' one season in English football saw him guide Watford to 13th place in the Premier League and the FA Cup semi-finals

Quique Sanchez Flores brushed aside questions about his future following Espanyol's Copa del Rey tie on Thursday night after emerging as the favourite to become the next Stoke manager.

Press Association Sport understands Flores is the Premier League club's first choice to replace Mark Hughes and that a Stoke delegation met with the former Watford boss in Barcelona on Wednesday.

However, Flores preferred to focus on his side's cup exploits rather than discuss himself after seeing his Espanyol side progress to the quarter-finals after overturning a first-leg deficit with a 2-0 away win over Levante.

Asked if he had received an offer from Stoke, Flores told a post-match press conference as reported by the Spanish media: " I'm not going to talk about me on such an important day for Espanyol.

"It's a day for Espanyol, for the club, for the players, it's a day to celebrate for having qualified for the quarters.

"I don't want to talk about me, but to enjoy these moments. I want to continue being happy with my profession."

The ex-Atletico Madrid and Benfica boss added: "I'm very grateful to Espanyol, I've been frustrated sometimes because we haven't advanced as fast as desired, but that's because Espanyol haven't been able to, not because they haven't wanted to.

"Right now we're not thinking about anything other than today's game and Sunday's match against Athletic (Bilbao)."

Stoke sacked Hughes last weekend after the 2-1 FA Cup loss at League Two Coventry, which followed a run of seven losses in 10 Premier League games.

The 18th-placed Staffordshire outfit were interested in Derby manager Gary Rowett until he signed a new contract with the Rams on Tuesday.

Flores' one season in English football to date saw him guide Watford to a 13th-placed Premier League finish in 2015-16, with the Hornets also reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

The 52-year-old Spaniard then took charge at Espanyol in the summer of 2016, on a three-year deal, and they finished eighth in LaLiga last term.

It is also understood that Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill is under consideration for the top job at the bet365 Stadium.

O'Neill and his coaching team agreed contract extensions with the Football Association of Ireland last October.

But the 65-year-old said after the Republic lost their World Cup qualifying play-off the following month that he would need to have "a real think" about his future, and still nothing has been signed.

Since the departure of Hughes and his assistant Mark Bowen, first-team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki has been in temporary charge at Stoke, taking training ahead of Monday's league clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Niedzwiecki has been assisted by under-18s boss Kevin Russell, who faced the media at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Russell said: "It's been a bit difficult with a manager gone who is really well-respected in the club.

"But as the week has gone on, we all know football - it's just a matter now of getting on with it and trying to prepare for the new manager coming in, making sure the players are in the right frame of mind, or the game on Monday, whichever it is (that comes first).

"Whoever comes in is coming into a fantastic football club. They will be a lucky manager."

Defenders Erik Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi, sidelined of late by hamstring and groin injuries respectively, could be available for selection for Monday having returned to training this week.

Press Association

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