The FourFourTwo Preview: Sunderland vs Stoke
The worst home record vs the worst away record. 4-4, then...
- S'land 1-0 Kidderminster (FAC)
- Man Utd 2-1p S'land (LC)
- S'land 2-2 So'ton (Prem)
- Fulham 1-4 S'land (Prem)
- S'land 2-1 Man Utd (LC)
- Chelsea 1-0 Stoke (FAC)
- Palace 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 3-5 Liverpool (Prem)
- Stoke 2-1 Leicester (FAC)
- Stoke 1-1 Everton (Prem)
Black Cats supporters will still be savouring last week’s League Cup semi-final success at Old Trafford, after their high on drama, low on quality penalty shootout success over Manchester United set up a first cup final since 1992.
Gus Poyet then made 10 changes for the FA Cup clash with Kidderminster, and saw his second string do just about enough to oust the non-league side.
Sunderland have now triumphed in six of their last nine ties in all competitions (including at Old Trafford) and the Uruguayan wants to build on the forward momentum.
They shouldn’t have too much trouble firing themselves up thanks to comments made by former manager Paolo Di Canio this week, with Sunderland considering legal action against the Italian.
He launched a scathing attack on several members of the Sunderland squad, labelling defender Phil Bardsley and midfielder Lee Cattermole as “rotten” and captain John O’Shea as “two-faced”.
A home win on Wednesday would close the gap on opponents Stoke to a single point, but the Wearsiders have picked up just two wins and eight points from 11 league games at the Stadium of Light this season.
But then they are facing Mark Hughes’ men, who head north with the worst away record in the division (one victory and eight defeats from 11 trips) and without a win on Wearside in 11 visits since 1994.
The Potters’ form has nosedived since their Boxing Day debacle at Newcastle, taking just one point from a possible 15 and shipping 15 goals in the process, but Sunday’s FA Cup defeat to Chelsea means they can now focus solely on arresting that slide.
While they limited the Blues to just the one goal at Stamford Bridge (Oscar and Andre Schurrle did hit the woodwork), the Potters looked ponderous going forward, and Hughes will hope the arrival of Peter Odemwingie – signed in a swap deal for the out-of-favour Kenwyne Jones – helps revitalise their forward line.
Manchester City loanee John Guidetti is also hoping to get a kick sometime soon having been limited to just 11 minutes of action so far, saying: “We’ll see how it goes the next match, otherwise we have a problem.”
Carlos Cuellar and Keiren Westwood are Sunderland’s only absentees, with the Spanish defender due back in around 10 days. Striker Connor Wickham has been recalled from his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday after scoring eight goals in 11 Championship appearances.
Defensive duo Robert Huth and Andy Wilkinson are sidelined for Stoke, while winger Matthew Etherington has not featured since the 3-3 draw at Swansea in November.
Key battle: Lee Cattermole vs Glenn Whelan
Hughes recently admitted he was interested in signing the controversial Sunderland enforcer, but conceded a deal was unlikely after the Black Cats reached Wembley.
The 25-year-old played a key defensive role in Sunderland’s surprise 4-1 success at relegation rivals Fulham earlier in the month, making 7 ball recoveries as well as ending the game as the top tackler (9 out of 11).
Republic of Ireland international Whelan will be keen to show his manager that Cattermole is not needed among the Britannia ranks by bossing this battle on Wednesday night. Whelan made more ball recoveries (12) and interceptions (5) than any other Stoke player in their topsy-turvy 5-3 home defeat to Liverpool.
In the reverse fixture against Sunderland in November, Whelan enjoyed a 100% pass completion rate and made a joint game-high number of ball recoveries (7). A similarly domineering display could go a considerable way to replicating Stoke’s 2-0 victory that day.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 2–0 S'land (Prem, Nov 13)
- S'land 1–1 Stoke (Prem, May 13)
- Stoke 0–0 S'land (Prem, Oct 12)
- Stoke 0–1 S'land (Prem, Feb 12)
- S'land 4–0 Stoke (Prem, Sep 11)
Hughes came out on top, 2-0, in November in what was only Poyet’s fifth league game in the Sunderland dugout; a game best remembered for Wes Brown’s dubious 36th-minute dismissal.
The pair played together for a year at Chelsea and lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, having both scored in the second leg of the semi-final against Vicenza. Trailing 2-0 on aggregate, Poyet pulled a goal back, and after Gianfranzo Zola had headed home, Hughes lashed in the clincher to send the Blues to Stockholm.
“Mark is a gentleman,” said Poyet before November’s game in the Potteries. “You use the word in England if you have to define people who have everything – they are elegant, well-spoken and respectful. Mark is one of those people. Yet when he played football, he was not a gentleman. But he was a winner and I like that.”
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Sunderland have drawn 6 of their last 10 matches against middle-third opposition with 7 of those matches providing fewer than 3 goals.
- The Black Cats have picked up recently, they have lost only 1 of their last 7 league games (W2 D3 L1).
- After they lost their 7 match unbeaten home run, Stoke will be hoping to reverse a 9-match winless away run.
- No team has picked up fewer away points than Stoke (5).
- The Potters have had less than 3 goals in 8 of their past 9 away games with bottom-six clubs.
Best Bet: Sunderland by one goal exactly @ 3.85
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A lot of huff and puff, ending in a third straight 1-0 away defeat for Stoke.