Preview: Stoke City v Sunderland, Can We Do The Double?

BIRMINGHAM ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12 : Tony Pulis Manager of Stoke City looks on prior to kick off during the Barclays Premier League match between Birmingham City and Stoke City at St Andrews on February 12 2011 in Birmingham England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Well, bloody hell, Norwich eh? What a performance, what a victory, and another two brilliant goals to add to this season's ever-growing list of absolute 'worldys'.

However, this is a time in the world of Sunderland AFC where we don't seem to have any time off what-so-ever, either in the real world of football, or here, at Roker Report Towers.

So, with that in mind, this weekend sees us travelling to the Potteries in the hope of taking six points from them for the season, and putting in a performance similar to Steve Bruce's final swansong in charge at Sunderland, when we beat Saturday's hosts 4-0 at the Stadium of Light. Can we do the double over Tony Pulis and his team of giants?

Sunderland Team News

For the first time in as long as I can remember, we actually came through a game unscathed, and have no new injuries to report following our clash with Norwich. We do, however, have to bear in mind that this will be our third match in only seven days, and we have another to come next Wednesday thanks to the FA Cup replay against Middlesbrough.

With none of the men on the physio's table being available for this clash, the main team news will probably come in the form of whether Martin O'Neill decides to hand full debuts to his two deadline day signings, Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Krygiakos (from now on, I'll be referring to him as the Greek).

While Bridge would be fortunate to get a game ahead of Kieran Richardson at left back, the Greek could prove to be the perfect candidate to slot into the defence, as we know that we will be under aerial bombardment, and the manager may think that someone who is happy and willing to head anything put infront of him might be a solid choice for this clash. However, there are also solid arguments to keep the back four as it was in the Norwich game, as they offered the Canaries very little indeed.

In midfield, Jack Colback can expect to deputise for Lee Cattermole and David Vaughan again following an excellent performance at Norwich.

Up top, barring any late developments, Fraizer Campbell can expect to start again following his excellent run of form following his comeback, and O'Neill will probably stick with the pace of a front three including Campbell, McClean and Sessegnon against a Stoke back line who aren't the quickest. Connor Wickham's physical attributes could also be called upon at some point.

Stoke City Team News

The Black Cats can be happy that Matthew Etherington is facing a late fitness test, but him aside, Stoke are showing no other signs of wear and tear.

Despite Kenwyne Jones falling down the pecking order recently (although he did play in their defeat to Manchester United), the Stoke side should still contain a number of ex-Sunderland players.

Although the media perception is that Stoke haven't been the same kind of team at home as they have in the past, they are certainly no pushover.

Predicted Line-ups

SAFC: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson; Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Campbell

Stoke City: Sorensen, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Wilson, Pennant, Whitehead, Palacios, Jones, Walters, Crouch

Classic Encounter

While we've seen quite a few meetings between these two teams over the years, you'll forgive me if I refer back to the game that happened earlier this season, such is the difference in our team now that it already seems like decades ago.

Stoke visited the Stadium of Light on a run of good form, while Steve Bruce's Sunderland were stuttering their way through games. Five had been played, and the Black Cats record showed two draws and three defeats, leaving the Black Cats languishing in the bottom reaches of the Premier League.

Surprisingly, almost the same Sunderland team played that day as to what is expected on Sunday, as goals from Titus Bramble, Jonathan Woodgate at the wrong end, Craig Gardner and a superb free kick from Sebastian Larsson provided the Black Cats with a 4-0 win, and their first three points of the season.

Get Rich Quick

I won't lie to you. This is my first preview, and in many, many years of football betting, I can count the number of winners that I've had on one hand. As we all know well, Stoke are a tough team to beat, but, thinking positively, here are a couple of bets that might tickle your fancy, and land a pound or two in your pocket.

  • Sebastian Larsson is always a threat from set pieces, and, having not scored one for a while now, and first goal odds of 14/1 can't be a bad attempt.
  • Despite what happened up at the SOL, I can see this one being a tight encounter. We still don't look the best at defending set pieces, and Robert Huth has a habit of scoring headers, so Huth first goal, with a Sunderland 2-1 win will offer up odds of roughly 185/1. I'll certainly be sticking a pound on that one.
Song For Whoever

Aaaaahhhh. Power. I'm the one that gets to choose this week's songs, as we didn't get any suggestions (that I saw anyway) for this one.

So, with that in mind, and bearing in mind who is playing at our stadium this summer, added on top of the tremendous run of form that we find ourselves in... I have chosen one of my musical heroes. We would be top of the league if it began when Martin O'Neill took over, so for that reason, please enjoy Bruce Springsteen, and his song Glory Days.



Prediction

I can see it being a tough trip away at the Britannia, however, I don't think that we need to fear anyone playing as we are at the moment. Stoke find it hard when teams sit back, something that we have done very well in the past few weeks. With that in mind, I'm going to plump for a 2-1 away win.

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