Pieters: Stoke City are aiming for a top 10 finish in Premier League

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The 28-year-old is in Dubai this week as part of Mark Hughes’ warm weather training camp in the UAE.

Despite the sandy conditions over the past few days, Pieters said he’s enjoying the training and the bonding time away with the team.

“It’s been good, only the weather is not that nice. Training’s been good and it’s always good to be away with the team,” Pieters told Sport360 at the Jebel Ali Shooting Club.

“We did a couple of movements on the first day. Today we did a bit of a conditioning session, some cross training and then ended with a game.”


Since the turn of the year, Stoke have only lost once in their last six league games – a 1-0 defeat to West Brom at the start of February.








Currently ninth – level on points with West Ham – Pieters hopes the Dubai trip will inspire his players towards a top-10 finish or higher ahead of the run in.


“I think we need to just continue with what we’ve been doing. We had a couple of good games that toughened ourselves and believed in ourselves… We must aim for a top 10 or higher at the end of the season.”


Stoke will return to Premier League action on Sunday when they travel to London to face Tottenham Hotspur.




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Five reasons Kroos is the perfect Carrick replacement

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At one point in time, Manchester United boasted arguably the best midfield duo in Europe with Roy Keane and Paul Scholes patrolling the middle of the park.

When both stalwarts saw their time at United approach an end, the question of their replacements was instantly raised and on both occasions, the onus fell on Michael Carrick.

The Englishman joined the club in the summer of 2006 following Keane’s departure and was on hand to pick up the mantle when Scholes made his final bow as well.

To an extent, Carrick has almost single-handedly kept United’s midfield intact and ticking over, surviving so many midfield partners – many of whom never quite established themselves at Old Trafford.

Now, the prospect of Carrick’s own departure looms large and Paul Scholes has singled out Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos as his ideal replacement.

“I really like Toni Kroos,” Scholes told German magazine Kicker. “When I neared the end of my career, I followed him closely and tried to play like Kroos.

“I was a midfielder with an eye for the goal, but Kroos is one of the best midfield masterminds in the world. Kroos would be perfect at United next to (Paul) Pogba and Ander Herrera.”

Here, we look at five reasons why the German could be the perfect fit.

PASS-MASTER

A prerequisite to any Manchester United midfielder (bar Marouane Fellaini) is a wide-ranging passing ability and even more so in a potential replacement for Carrick.

In this regard, Kroos is second to none. The German’s ability to dictate play has often drawn comparison to former Bayern Munich and Germany team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger in his prime.

Whether it’s a gentle pass around the corner, an eye-of-the-needle through ball or a ranging cross-field diagonal, Kroos executes every variation with aplomb.

POSITIONING

Carrick has never been the most mobile of midfielders or one who regularly crunches into tackles and Kroos, while able to get around the pitch more, also relies heavily on his reading of the game and ability to occupy pockets of space in midfield.

Both have a reputation of always making themselves available to receive the ball and possess superior positional sense. With Kroos acting as a security blanket in midfield, the more dynamic Luka Modric has been afforded the freedom to drive forward at Madrid.

That bodes well for Paul Pogba in particular, who finds himself rather restrained when Carrick isn’t in the team in a 4-2-3-1 alongside Ander Herrera and behind either Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

PRIME

Carrick was 25 years-old when he arrived at United but only really hit his stride a couple of years later as he matured. Incidentally, at 27, Kroos may be perfectly primed for a starring role in United’s midfield having already gained a wealth of experience at Bayern and Madrid.

There’s no doubt that the German maestro won’t come cheap but given that he has at least six or seven years ahead of him, it’s certainly worth the investment.

COMPOSURE

One of Carrick’s best assets is the calming influence he has on the rest of the team. He never panics in possession, he’s passionate but never loses his head and Kroos is blessed with the same cool persona, operating with the efficiency and reliability of a German automobile.

In away matches especially, when the opposition is at your throat, that composed figure in midfield who can help get the ball down and string passes together is crucial to relieving some of the pressure.

STATS

The one area in which Kroos particularly excels over Carrick is his rate of assists. The German already has nine to his name in La Liga this season while the United midfielder is yet to register in that department.

When compared to the likes of Herrera and Pogba as well, it’s evident that while the Frenchman may be superior in the final third, Kroos is the more natural playmaker.

Stats via Whoscored.com

Stats via Whoscored.com

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Gerrard eager to end Dubai interview and watch FA Cup

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The Kop king, who is now involved with the club’s academy, was speaking after meetings fans at an Adidas event at the Mall of Emirates in Dubai on Sunday.

“It depends how long this interview, how long you keep me for,” was Gerrard’s response when asked if he’d take in any of Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup action.

Read more on Gerrard’s latest visit to the UAE.

Did you meet the Liverpool idol on Sunday?


Thank you to all the fans who came down today and @adidasmena for the experience! #NeverFollow

A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on










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