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Match Preview: Will SAFC Finally Win Their First Three Points v The Potters?

The two worst performing sides in the Premier League meet at the Bet365 Stadium this weekend, and absolutely nobody can predict just what the hell will happen.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Having ended the West Bromwich Albion game in a slightly positive fashion, the last thing that Sunderland will have wanted was a two week break.

The international football period has meant that David Moyes and his players have been made to wait for their latest opportunity to get three points, and an away game at fellow strugglers Stoke City might well be the perfect opportunity to gain some ground on the teams around us and achieve some forward momentum.

I would suppose that the same thing applies to both teams playing this weekend - a win is absolutely huge and can give us the kick up the arse needed to push on, but a win for Stoke could have the exact same impact. It might seem daft to say it, but this already could be classified as a 'six-pointer'. I know, I'm sorry, but it's true, isn't it?

I mean, picture this - we win on Saturday, West Ham lose to Crystal Palace and then we head in to our next fixture at the London Stadium with the chance to really step ahead of both the Hammers and the Potters on our ascent up the table. Sounds good, doesn't it? Great. Now all we've got to do is win the friggers.

I realise that football appears to be much more simple when you write things like down but in theory, those should be the short term targets set by David Moyes. Let's win the next two games, and then worry about what is to come next afterwards. This is a great chance to get ahead of the pack, and failing to do so will pretty much confirm which way we are headed.

Some Interesting Stats

Having started the season in a fairly horrific fashion with four straight losses - conceding four goals in three of those defeats - Stoke have drawn their last two, and their performance away at Manchester United before the international break was somewhat encouraging.

Sunderland have won just 15% of their last 20 away games, whilst Stoke have won 40% of their last home games.

Stoke have conceded in 75% of their last 20 home games, whilst Sunderland have conceded in 90% of their last 20 away games.

Both teams have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season, and neither side have won a league game yet. To say this is perhaps the most unpredictable Premier League fixture of the weekend would be an understatement.

Team News

The debate on whether David Moyes should employ the five-man defence that seemed to address some balance issues towards the end of the West Brom game may well be put to bed before the game even starts if Lamine Kone doesn't make the team, with the Ivorian struggling with a hamstring injury suffered whilst playing for his country midweek. Though I could suggest Jack Rodwell as a possible alternative, I'd put my house on Moyes going with a simple back four instead.

Jason Denayer also returned back from playing for his country injured, which means he won't keep his place in the side having completed a full ninety against West Brom.

Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe may well return to the squad which will be a welcome boost to David Moyes, who had very few options from the bench when he needed them in his last game.

Lee Cattermole still has a back issue nagging him and he'll miss out, as will Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring), Adnan Januzaj (ankle), Fabio Borini (groin), Vito Mannone (elbow) and Seb Larsson (MCL).

Our injury list is almost as big as the squad of fit players that we have to select from. Yikes.

Predicted XI: (5-3-2) Pickford, Manquillo, Kone, O'Shea, Djilobodji, Van Aanholt, Ndong, Rodwell, Khazri, Watmore, Defoe.

Manager's Crack

One interesting point raised by David Moyes in his pre-match press conference was regarding our South African midfielder Steven Pienaar, who since joining the club has struggled with minor injuries which have hampered his playing time.

He said:

Pienaar could make the squad tomorrow, so that's one good thing. That would give us a lift to get Steve back because he keeps the ball for us when he has played. The thing now is can we get him playing 90 minutes regularly?

The fact Moyes sees Pienaar as a player that could regularly play ninety minutes of football should his fitness permit it raises some interesting questions about what his plans are for the rest of the season, particularly with Pienaar at the forefront of his thoughts.

Gav's Prediction

This game is far too difficult to predict, more so than any other game this season. Both Stoke and Sunderland have talented players that are under-performing and really the key to either side winning tomorrow probably hinges on their big names turning up for once.

I feel like this will be a 1-1 draw, unfortunately. I'm really hoping we see a big reaction and put in a similar away performance to the one we had down at Norwich towards the end of last season, where we soak their pressure up well before breaking forward quickly and scoring with ease. Stoke are down there with us for a reason and we shouldn't be afraid of them, but a draw does seem like the most likely result given the form of both teams.

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