Friday 22 March 2019

Hughes defends resting key men ahead of trip to Toon

Chelsea 5 Stoke City 0

Stoke manager Mark Hughes: ‘I made decisions I feel will help us with the game we have on Monday’. Photo: Getty Images
Stoke manager Mark Hughes: ‘I made decisions I feel will help us with the game we have on Monday’. Photo: Getty Images

Miguel Delaney

Mark Hughes has admitted that he picked a makeshift Stoke City side with a mind on tomorrow's match away at Newcastle United, as his team were thrashed 5-0 by Chelsea.

The Stoke boss left key players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Joe Allen out in what ended up a collapse at Stamford Bridge, although his side must now play at St James' Park less than 48 hours later. As bad as this defeat was, too, Hughes argued it would still represent a good Christmas if they can get a win at Newcastle.

Pedro of Chelsea is challenged by Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City. Photo: Getty Images
Pedro of Chelsea is challenged by Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City. Photo: Getty Images

"The decisions weren't easy but they were decisions I was prepared to make," the Stoke boss said. "It's about getting the win against Newcastle now. We hope we will get it, and then this Christmas period will have been a good return. It would be two wins, a draw, and a defeat to Chelsea."

Stoke's situation was summed up by the fact they had teenagers Josh Tymon and Thomas Edwards in the back four, but Hughes hopes the situation will improve for tomorrow.

"We'll have Joe Allen available, Shaqiri available, [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting only did 10 to 15 minutes today, [Kurt] Zouma available, maybe Erik Pieters. The landscape for Monday changes completely hopefully.

"We were stretched today, what we had defensively was what you saw. We had two young lads 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.

Davide Zappacosta of Chelsea celebrates with teammates Pedro and Marcos Alonso after scoring his sides fifth goal. Photo: Getty Images
Davide Zappacosta of Chelsea celebrates with teammates Pedro and Marcos Alonso after scoring his sides fifth goal. Photo: Getty Images

"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 today 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."

Antonio Conte, meanwhile, praised the hunger of his players, as well as their defensive solidity. "I think our performance was very positive," he said.

"We started the game very well, with great desire to score early. In this type of game if you are able to score early the game can become easy because your opponent has to change their plan and then gives more space to your striker.

"We started very well. We wanted this. I'm very pleased with the performance and to finish another game with a clean sheet. We are showing good solidity. If you compare this season with last season we have conceded less goals. We have scored less but conceded less. We have to continue to work really hard to try to improve. But to finish this year in this way is great for me, the players, the club and our fans."

The only slight blemish was Alvaro Morata missing two one-on-ones in a goalless performance, but Conte was not concerned. "It was a pity because for a striker it is always very important to score," he said. "But I am more worried when our striker doesn't have opportunities. In this case Alvaro was very good to stay in the right place. He didn't score but in the game away at Stoke he scored a hat-trick so he drew the matches against them."

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