Stoke City vs Sunderland: Match preview and predicted line-ups
It is only October, but this match feels like a six-pointer, as both sides have yet to record a league win this season. Stoke City have surprised many as they were expected to be challenging for the top ten. This feels like it could be a must win for Mark Hughes as he needs to prove that he still has the players with him. Sunderland’s early season form comes as less of a shock as they are known for starting slowly.
The talent in the Stoke squad is huge and if they are managed correctly, they could become a force in the Premier League. That said, there are a lot of questionable characters at the club and the lack of work rate has become a big issue. It will be a massive test of Hughes’ managerial ability to turn it around at the Bet365 Stadium, but this weekend provides a great opportunity to stop the rot.
David Moyes hasn’t been the same since leaving Everton and his future at Sunderland is already looking uncertain. This would be his third successive failure as a manager, which will make it difficult for him to get another job in the Premier League. He has been dealt a poor hand since taking the job, as the board failed to bring in the players that were required. The Scotsman will remain upbeat about his chances of succeeding in the North East, but he needs a Premier League win and quickly.
Stoke have taken just three points from their opening seven matches of the season, but there is hope that things are improving as they have drawn their last two. The draw against Manchester United was a huge result and allowed them to go into the international break in a relatively positive mood.
The visitors on Saturday are the only team to have started the season in worse form. They have taken just two points from their opening seven matches. Sunderland have conceded eight goals in their last four matches, a stat that should provide Stoke with confidence.
Joe Allen should be fit to start after picking up a hamstring injury while on international duty. Bojan and Phil Bardsley could both be in line to start this weekend. Lee Grant will continue in goal after a man-of-the-match display against Manchester United.
Patrick van Aanholt is in line for a recall after his equalising goal against West Brom. Jason Denayer was poor against the Baggies and is likely to be the one to make way. Lee Cattermole could be fit in time to replace Jan Kirchhoff, who will miss out this weekend.
Stoke City Sunderland
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Joe Allen and Glen Johnson are doubts for the match against their relegation rivals. Jack Butland is closing in on a return, but is unlikely to return to the team until November. Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are on the long term injury list.
Jason Denayer, Jan Kirchhoff, Adnan Januzaj, Fabio Borini and Vito Mannone are all unavailable through injury. Victor Anichebe, Lee Cattermole and Steven Pienaar are all in contention to be involved at Stoke.
It is a difficult match to predict as neither side have played well this season. A draw looks to be the most likely result and that is my prediction for this weekend. That won’t do either manager any good and the pressure will continue to mount. I do expect there to be goals at the Bet365 Stadium as both defences are susceptible to conceding goals and possess threatening attacking players.
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