Stoke away is always a difficult game, our 3-2 defeat there against the run of play this time last year set us off on a difficult run which ended up taking us near to the relegation zone before we pulled up to 10th spot. Things are very different at the club now, thanks to the influence of Martin O'Neill, with 6 wins from the last 9, and a real momentum appearing which took us above Stoke City in the Premiership table in midweek.
Sunderland come into this clash at the Potteries missing the recently injured quartet Wes Brown, David Vaughan, Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner, with Matt Kilgallon, Titus Bramble and Craig Gordon stiill some way from their comebacks. On the plus side new loan signing from Wolfsburg Sotirios Kyrgiakos is available for selection.
Stoke will check on winger Matthew Etherington, who has missed training because of a virus, and Mamady Sidibe is absent, but otherwise they have no real injury worries. They need their squad as they are still in Europe, as well the FA Cup, with a tough game away at Crawley.
I admire what Tony Pulis has achieved at the Potteries; he sticks to a style of plays which is hard to combat, featuring real aerial power and no time on the ball for the opposition. Perhaps they are being found out a bit this season, as they have only won 1 of the last 7 league matches, and drawing 3. Only Wigan have scored less goals in the Premiership, despite the signing of Peter Crouch. Sunderland boast an excellent defensive record of only 24 conceded, with a goal difference of +8, compared to -12 for tomorrow’s home team.
Obviously, this is the best league in the world and anything can happen, and we are watching the weather front, but Mackem fans on the Lads' current form will be disappointed with less than a point.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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