Sunderland v Stoke
The Stadium of light
18th September 2011
After drawing in Kiev on Thursday, Stoke will have to pick themselves up and go again today as they face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats signed a variety of new faces in the summer, with the likes of John O'Shea, Wes Brown & David Vaughan all joining their ranks - and optimism was unsurprisingly high ahead of the new season.
However, one of the shocks of the summer came about last week as their star striker Asamoah Gyan departed on loan, and after a poor start to the season which has seen the North East club gain only 2 points from 4 matches, and lose to their fierce rivals Newcastle - things aren't looking so great.
Stoke meanwhile, are flying in both the league and Europe, and with 8 points from our opening 4 matches and an unbeaten record in all competitions - times haven't really been better for Stoke fans.
Despite succumbing to a last-gasp equaliser in Ukraine on Thursday, another terrific defensive performance suggests Sunderland will have their work cut out this afternoon, especially without Asamoah Gyan, but this is football, and it has a funny old habit of coming back and biting you on the backside.
It really would be 'Typical Stoke' if we went there and lost today, but this isn't any ordinary Stoke side, and we must remember this is a team which continues to push the boundaries.
There have already been calls for Steve Bruce's head, and all the pressure will be on the hosts to win the game today and kick-start their season, but when you're in desperate need of a win, it really isn't a very good time to be playing Stoke.
Personally, I think the result in today's game will serve as a good indicator as to whether Stoke will be challenging for the top 8, or hovering around 12th/13th position this year.
Away form clearly needs to be addressed and we've had a couple of good results on the road this season, but Sunderland away is a bit of a step up & we'll see how the lads cope
Tony Pulis should have a job for life after what he's done for Stoke - but Steve Bruce's situation is slightly more tentative, and Pulis has backed the former Manchester United captain :
Pulis said : 'Steve`s a great manager. He`s at a great club and you have difficult times - that`s management, it`s a really difficult job.
"The aspirations of people connected with clubs now is far beyond what most people can achieve but that is the way we live our lives.
"Steve and the club will be fine. He is a strong and competent person who will enjoy the challenge.
"You need time to bed in new players."
Sunderland Team News:
Sunderland's Phil Bardsley is suspended after the FA found him guilt y of violent conduct.
John O'Shea has been injured with a calf injury and was sidelined in the defeat against Chelsea last time out - but the former Man United defender should start today.
Player to watch: Nicklas Bendtner
The Denmark-international was apparently a target for Stoke on deadline day, with reports his father was at the Britannia trying to seal a deal for his son.
Those reports have since been brushed aside by Bendtner and he will look to impress his new club today.
A quality player on his day, there's no doubt he'll be Sunderland biggest striking threat this season with the departure of Gyan.
Stephen Sessegnon is a player who's always impressed me as a footballer, the Potters will definitely have to watch out for the Benin international.
He's got an abundance of talent and almost like Fuller for Stoke, he has the ability to turn a game on it's head and be a genuine match-winner.
Stoke City Team News:
Matthew Etherington is still nursing a back injury, whilst Rory Delap (groin) and Marc Wilson (hamstring) missed the Dynamo Kiev match.
All three will have fitness tests prior to the game to determine whether they'll start or not.
Jonathan Woodgate is confident he will be able to return to the squad but there are doubts on whether he will be risked to start.
Peter Crouch didn't travel to Kiev midweek as a precaution, so barring any last minute hitches, he should take his place in the starting line up.
Player to watch: Peter Crouch
If the England man gets his start, there's every chance he'll get a lot more room than he did against Liverpool, and if Pennant and Etherington start on the wings - there's no reason why the 6 ft 7in hitman can't start his Stoke career off with a bang.
Match Facts & Stats
The Potters have been flying whilst The Black Cats have been faltering. Everything is pointing to an away win for Stoke but Sunderland will be desperate to win the game and it'll all depend on the approach to the game Stoke take. I've got a really bad feeling about this game, probably because as a Stoke fan I'm not used to this current success and I'm expecting us to come down to earth with a big whallop sometime soon. My head would say Sunderland 1-0 Stoke City but you know what - I'll go with my heart... Sunderland 0-2 Stoke City GOARRRRRN STOKEEE!!!
Stoke entertain Tottenham Hotspur at the Britannia on Tuesday night in the Carling Cup.
But their next Premier league game is against the Champions, Manchester United on Saturday 24th September.