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💬 Bowen discusses preparations for in-form Stoke

Manager previews the game against the Potters

12 March 2020

The Royals have had a full week to prepare for their home game against Stoke City this weekend – part of the attention has naturally been paid to events away from the pitch, with various measures being imposed across England and Europe to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Like most people across society, the focus for the squad has been on doing the right things for the sake of their health and going about their business.

“Of course, you have to prepare as usual,” Bowen said. “We are having almost daily meetings with the players – just trying to answer their questions more than anything else.

“The doctors have been keeping them advised of the best ways to prepare day-to-day, including their families, partners and children. Making sure they have all the information they need.

“And, that done, you have to keep doing the things you do – keep preparing in the usual way and then be guided by anything that comes from higher authorities and which way things go ahead. We are trying to remain as focused as we can and to prepare for Stoke and Saturday.”

Both sides go into Saturday’s game at Madejski Stadium on a decent run of form – the Royals beating Barnsley and Birmingham in their last two league outings, either side of a well-fought FA Cup tie, and the Potters having put five past Hull City last time out.

“It was a difficult week – not just physically, with three games and one which went to extra-time against Sheffield United, but mentally as well,” the manager continued. “The players came through it well and ticked a few boxes to make sure we carried on our season.

“We have had a couple of days rest – clear the minds, come back fresh on Thursday. Now we have trained well, trained hard and I see a real focus in the players as well, which is encouraging for the weekend.

“Stoke are in a good run of form since Michael O’Neill has come in. I know Michael well – he prepares his teams well and especially after last week’s result, they will be full of confidence.

“Once again, we’re under no illusion of the task ahead on Saturday, even though it’s our home game. It is a different mentality for us, in that we’re expecting to go out and win the game, but it will be a difficult situation. On current form, they are as good as any team in the league.

“It’s going to be an interesting tie. Two sides meeting in good form, and we’ve got to make sure we impose our game on them.

“On paper, you would rather be playing against teams in the bottom half rather than teams in the top six. But that brings its own problems to solve for me, the staff and the players. Every week we will be playing teams that are motivated, whose seasons aren’t finished. We have to make sure we’re ready for that battle.”

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