Hughes: Dubai trips benefit Stoke and Sunderland
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes
Neither English Premier League (EPL) side is in action this weekend as they are out of the FA Cup, so they have instead set up camp in Dubai.
Sunderland will train at Dubai Sports City and Stoke are at Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.
But with both sides having only won once in the last five games — Stoke are 10th in the league and Sunderland are second from bottom — both coaches are highly sensitive to the suggestion that this will be a holiday.
“People might look at it and think it’s a jolly, but that’s not the case,” said Hughes, whose side arrived in Dubai on Tuesday fresh from beating 15th placed Bournemouth 3-1 away on Saturday. Next up they face bottom-of-the-league Aston Villa at home on February 27.
“There are real benefits that we glean from trips of this nature. We did it last season and came back and had a great finish to the season. We’re hoping that’s going to be the case again this time. We’ll have four or five days in Dubai. It’s an opportunity to review things.
“It will be of particular benefit for Giannelli Imbula,” he added of the Belgian midfielder, who joined the Potters from Porto for a club record £18.3 million (Dh67.22 million) in January. “Because it’s a chance for him to really get to know his new teammates, but I think the whole squad will benefit from it.
“The trip has come at exactly the right time — we feel we can recuperate and recover and we’re already looking forward to our next game against [Aston] Villa.”
Relegation-threatened Sunderland arrived in Dubai on Monday after beating Manchester United 2-1 at home on Saturday. The Black Cats’ next match is away to Allardyce’s former club West Ham on February 27.
“Dubai is a foregone conclusion for me,” defended Allardyce of the trip. “When they come back they’ll be fitter, physically and mentally. They’ll be better prepared to finish the season.
“I have the data that goes with it, I don’t just rely on what I think. I rely on the data that ProZone churns out. After 14 or 15 years of doing it, all that data went to the Premier League and Football League about what it would do for everybody if you gave them a winter break, how it would reduce the injury list and refresh the players physically and mentally.
“For me it [Dubai] has always been a very important time. It puts that very difficult Christmas and New Year period [behind you], where it’s raining, it’s windy, it’s cold, it’s black, it’s wet, it’s dark when you come in, it’s dark when you go home, and then you get to Dubai and it’s 75 degrees [Fahrenheit].
“You can train in your T-shirt and your boots and it’s warm and you need factor 25 rather than 16 jumpers, a hat and a scarf.
“It makes you feel good and if they feel good you’re going to get more out of the players when they come back — and extra points, hopefully.”
A total of nine EPL clubs won’t feature in this weekend’s FA Cup fifth round, but only four are staying in the UK, with Norwich City in Abu Dhabi, Everton in Doha, Newcastle in La Manga, Spain — and Liverpool in Germany ahead of their Europa League clash with Augsberg on Thursday. Leicester, Southampton, Swansea and Aston Villa have all decided to stay at home.