REUTERS - Stoke City’s management is counting on the recent break in Dubai to build team spirit and prepare the squad for a tough run of fixtures, kicking off with a visit to Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday.
Stoke, who are ninth in the league table, had a two-week gap between matches and manager Mark Hughes flew the squad to Dubai for warm-weather training, hoping it would help bed in his January signings, including striker Saido Berahino.
Three of Stoke’s next four games are against the league’s top three teams, with the game at third-placed Spurs followed by a visit to second-placed Manchester City on March 11 and a home match agasinst leaders Chelsea a week later.
“It’s important to change the environment because sometimes going into the same building or training centre... is a little bit monotonous,” Hughes told the club website. (www.stokecityfc.com)
“Of course we have long cold winters and sometimes you need that change of scenery to stimulate the group again.”
Hughes’ assistant Mark Bowen said the trip had allowed the team to bond and that the change of scene would ensure Stoke finished the season strongly.
“It’s served its purpose because the most important thing is getting the squad together 24 hours a day where they can enjoy each other’s company,” he added.
”It’s a brilliant chance for us to bed the likes of Saido Berahino in with the team and get some good training work under our belts.
“We’ve got a difficult period of games coming up. We’ve got Tottenham away, then Middlesbrough, Man City and Chelsea... but we’ve proven in the past that we can push right to the end having gained the refreshment of a trip like this.”
Spurs were responsible for Stoke’s heaviest defeat of the season so far, beating Hughes’ men 4-0 at home in September.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru