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Preview: Sunderland Tackle Stoke In Search For Safety

After not only failing to get any points from Villa Park last Monday, Sunderland now host Stoke City as the battle to secure safety intensifies.

Michael Regan

Sunderland Team News

Obviously the big news is the one everyone knows, and that's that Stephane Sessegnon will miss this game and the remainder of the season, causing a huge hole in our attack.

Who Paolo Di Canio will bring in is anyone's guess, but we can rule out the likes of Mikael Mandron and Jordan Laidler as the boss has come out and said now is not the time for blooding youth. Something I wholeheartedly agree with.

So with that in mind it looks like it will come to a straight shootout between Adam Johnson and James McClean for the support striker role, and in my opinion it will be the former who gets the nod to support Danny Graham in attack.

There could be changes at the back too. Carlos Cuellar is no doubt still having nightmares about Christian Benteke from last week, and with Stoke bringing their physicality, don't be surprised to see the Spaniard on the bench for this must-win game.

Stoke City Team News

Stoke have turned things around a little since it looked a week or two ago that they were careering towards the final relegation spot.

Tony Pulis has seen his side win two in a row and is unlikely to change the side which won 1-0 against Norwich City last weekend, meaning our defence will have to deal with the onslaught of attack from Peter Crouch, Cameron Jerome and Jon Walters, being fed by the likes of Charlie Adam.

Glenn Whelan and Andy Wilkinson both have knocks but given they need to win as much as we do, both will likely play through the pain barrier for their side.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Kilgallon, O'Shea, Rose; Larsson, Colback, N'Diaye, McClean; Johnson; Graham

Stoke City: Begovic; Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson; Whelan, Adam, N'Zonzi, Walters; Jerome, Crouch

Key Matchup: Alfred N'Diaye Vs Peter Crouch

While normally I focus on our goalkeeper versus Stoke City and his need to be strong, I've faith in Simon Mignolet as he's proved himself a few times that he's capable of dealing with things, so my attention turns to our own giant.

N'Diaye had a great game against Everton, marking Marouane Fellaini out of the game. If he can do the same against Stoke City's focal point of attack in the form of Peter Crouch, we should be in good stead to get all three points from the game.

Recent Form: LLLWW

Loss: Everton 1-0 Stoke City (Mirallas 28)

Loss: Stoke City 1-3 Aston Villa (Agbonlahor 9, Kightly 80, Lowton 87, Benteke 90)

Loss: Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United (Carrick 4, Van Persie 66)

Win: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Stoke City (Crouch 42, Walters Pen 77)

Win: Stoke City 1-0 Norwich City (Adam 46)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 4-0 Stoke City, 18/10/11

What a day this was, and I'm sure every single Sunderland fan would take a repeat as last season at home we destroyed them 4-0 with a first half treble to make the second half inconsequential.

Titus Bramble opened the scoring after just five minutes before a Jonathan Woodgate own goal just six minutes later put things beyond doubt.

With the visitors struggling having played away in Europe a few days earlier, Craig Gardner with a lovely long-range effort and Seb Larsson made the scoreline emphatic with still half an hour to play.

The Ref: Lee Mason

The 41-year old referee will take charge of his fourth Sunderland game of the season tonight, with the other three will not looking particularly great. Having overseen defeats for us this season away at Everton and Reading, plus the 1-1 draw with West Ham United.

Mason has been quite lenient this season and looks to let the game flow. So far in 27 outings this season he's yet to send anyone off despite dishing out 96 yellow cards. He's also only awarded 10 penalties in that time, 6 of which came in two games.

What The Managers Said

Paolo Di Canio:

I am sure that we can lose, we can draw, we can win, but on Monday night, we are going to perform in a proper way.

I can guarantee this.

We have to make sure for the future that there can't be too much positive poison because otherwise we are going to lose.

Tony Pulis:

We've got 40 points and good goal difference which is what we wanted.

Now is the time to push-on; we have to do that because mathematically we're still not safe.

We need to get as many points as possible and it would be lovely to finish the season with a few more wins.

Roker Report Predicts

This will certainly be one for the purists, but with a vocal home crowd behind us knowing that a win would mean everything it's hard to see anything other than a narrow Sunderland win. We're predicting a pretty dull game for a the neutral but an edgy one for us. A 1-0 victory would go down very well indeed and almost guarantee survival.

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