Stoke City v Manchester City: Tony Pulis's big decision over strike stars
PETER Crouch and Kenwyne Jones are being made to sweat over who gets the nod to start in tomorrow's mouthwatering FA Cup clash against Manchester City.
Boss Tony Pulis is keeping the pair guessing as he tries to plot the downfall of the Premier League champions.
Most fans would plump for Jones on current form, but Pulis is refusing to rule out Crouch's claims to a starting place in tomorrow's televised fourth-round tie (12.45pm).
Jones remains the subject of speculation over his future following Swansea's recent failed bid of £3m for the big striker.
But Pulis doesn't feel such talk will affect Jones.
"Players have to deal with that. They get paid exceptionally good wages to do their jobs and you are in the public eye all of the time," he said.
"You are going to be flavour of the month one minute, but not the next, and have speculation one minute and not the next."
Pulis surprisingly demoted Jones to the bench and recalled Crouch for last week's 3-1 defeat at Swansea, but he acknowledges that the former England striker is still struggling with the after affects of his mouth injury sustained at the end of November.
"Obviously his mouth is still a problem," he stated. "He's not 100 per cent, but he is getting there.
"It's affected his breathing because he's had to have the gum shield in and it's not been comfortable at times.
"But he's the same as everybody at his club, he just wants to play."
Crouch has scored on Manchester City's last two visits to the Britannia – including his wonder strike last season – but Pulis says that will have no bearing on whether or not he gets the nod ahead of Jones.
"He's got a great record, not just against Man City. I will pick a team I think will win the game and whether Peter is in there or not doesn't come into it for me."
Stoke will be waiting to see if Swansea return with an increased bid for Jones ahead of next Thursday's deadline.
But for now Pulis remains philosophical about the Trinidadian's whereabouts by adding: "Watch us training and see if Kenwyne is there."
The manager's other great selection headache comes at full-back as Dean Whitehead stands by to deputise for a second successive game.
Andy Wilkinson is still suffering with a back complaint and remains doubtful, while Pulis is unconvinced by Ryan Shotton's recovery from a groin problem after watching him in training and during a 45-minute contribution to a behind-closed doors friendly against Derby on Tuesday.
Supporters are reminded that tickets for the Man City tie remain on general sale priced £20 for adults, £10 for over-65s and £5 for under-17s.