Sunderland travel to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday lunchtime to do battle with Stoke City in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Stoke hasn't been the best of trips for Sunderland in recent years, but hopefully the introduction of our latest Ghanaian signing will change things this time...
SAFC Team News
The scoreline might not have been too flattering, and the second half was pretty abject, but we showed a good account of ourselves on Tuesday, and with all due respect to Stoke City, they're no Chelsea. So we've plenty of reasons to go into the game with a bit of confidence.
The back 5 should continue to pick itself with Craig Gordon in goal behind a line of Nedum Onouha, Anton Ferdinand, Titus Bramble (who will continue as captain after Cattermole's latest injury) and the continually impressive, Phil Bardsley.
Into midfield, and we're certainly going to see the introduction of our new boy, Sulley Muntari. The question will come though; at who's expense? One thing I'm willing to stake on is who WILL start in the 5. Muntari will obviously be one, Malbranque had a great game against Chelsea, so count him in, along with goalscorer Richardson and new boy Stephane Sessegnon. That leaves a choice between Jordan Henderson & Ahmed Elmohamady.
Although he didn't have the best of games against Chelsea, I'd stick with Elmohamady. Jordan Henderson is a fantastic talent, but hasn't been at the races recently, and could probably do with a day on the bench. Elmohamady's pace should also help us nullify Etherington on their left hand side. Whether Bruce see's things this way is another matter entirely. Of course the likes of Jordan Cook, Jack Colback and Cristian Riveros could all come in, but any of that trio would be quite a shock.
Of course Gyan will stay up front as the lone target, and hopefully he will fare better than he did midweek, where he seemed a bit lost. Asamoah seems to have hit up a neat partnership with Richardson in behind him. So expect that to continue.
The only new bit of injury news is that Lee Cattermole is out for another month. It seemed he was right on course to play this game, but his latest setback is a huge blow for us, as his tackling and leadership in the middle his been a big miss for us.
Bruce's Probable Team:
Gordon; Onouha, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble; Muntari, Malbranque; Sessegnon, Richardson, Henderson; Gyan
Gordon; Onouha, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble; Muntari, Malbranque; Sessegnon, Richardson, Elmohamady; Gyan
From the Stoke City side
Tony Pulis has pretty much an entire squad to pick from. Changes were made for the midweek game against Liverpool, and I'd expect the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Matt Etherington & Danny Collins to come in for Diao, Higginbotham and Walters.
We know what to expect from Stoke, it's going to be an intesely physical battle. Chelsea was similar on Tuesday night, and hopefully we don't get out muscled in midfield as we were then. Sulley Muntari will be the focus of attention to help break up play and be a bit of a stopper in midfield for us.
I'm confident of Bardsley & Onouha continuing their good form and handling Etherington & Pennant, who will be integral to Stoke's attacking play, however Asamoah Gyan alone up front will have a tougher task against Huth & Faye. Richardson will need to be constantly buzzing around him.
I can't imagine it's gonna be a classic on Sky Sports, I'm plumping for a draw, with an outside chance of us winning. I think 1-1 would be a fair assessment of things. I'm gonna back Sessegnon to bag his first for the lads, with Kenwyne Jones inevitably getting one for the Stokies.
If your going, make a hell of a noise, and out shout the semi-famous Stoke Roar, and lets hope the lads bring back all three points.
Ha'way the lads.