Stoke City - Sunderland Preview: Can the Black Cats pull clear of their rivals?

Sunderland travel down to the Britannia this weekend with the chance to pull away from their fellow relegation strugglers.

Stoke City - Sunderland Preview: Can the Black Cats pull clear of their rivals?
Image credit: VAVEL

Sunderland's goalless draw against Arsenal last weekend means they now occupy 17th place in the table. They now have the chance to move away from their relegation rivals when they face Stoke City.

The facts and figures

Sunderland are unbeaten in their last four league games against Mark Hughes' men, winning three of those. To add to this, Stoke have lost four of their last six matches. It seems as if the players could be in holiday mode already, as it looks like Stoke will not be able to reach a European spot this year.

Three defeats on the spin for Stoke will have also knocked a lot of the confidence out of the squad. The defence has shipped four goals in each of those three games and with the news that Shay Given is out for the season, Sunderland's attack may be relishing the thought of travelling to the Britannia.

Sunderland, on the other hand, have been defensively sound in recent weeks, keeping three clean sheets in their last four matches. However, they have also failed to score in three of those matches.

Jermain Defoe has scored ten goals away from home this term.

Will Defoe fire Sunderland to safety? | Image: Andrew Orchard
Will Defoe fire Sunderland to safety? | Image: Andrew Orchard

Likely line ups

With reports in Ireland stating Given is out for the season, it means Jakob Haugaard will fill in between the sticks. The 23-year-old has already played this season but his inexperience may be a worry.

Ibrahim Affelay has also suffered an injury in the past week, The Dutchman has been sidelined for around eight months with knee ligament damage.

Despite playing the same side over the last few weeks, Sam Allardyce's starting XI are all fit for the weekend and it is likely an unchanged line-up will be named.

The only player that may have earned a start is Duncan Watmore. The youngster has been fantastic since his return from injury and seems to always have an impact whenever he plays. Wahbi Khazri has been quiet as of late so may be the man to lose his place if Watmore was in line to play.

Surrounding teams

Usually, the Britannia stadium is a tough place to go but as previously mentioned, this weekend Sunderland can catch Stoke whilst they are on a poor run of form. This is important due to Newcastle United being at home to Crystal Palace, a game in which they are likely to pick up all three points due to their recent up turn in form. 

Norwich City must travel to Arsenal for the evening kick-off, knowing a win could take them back out of the bottom three.