Stoke City travel to Sunderland on Saturday still looking for a first ever away win the the Premier League. After last Saturday’s excellent home win over Manchester City, there is a feeling of optimism amongst the fans that this could be the game in which it comes, a feeling that must be shared by the players, whose confidence will be boosted by seeing us outside the relegation places for the first time in a month. Last time the Potters travelled to the North East, a superb second half fight-back and a dramatic late equaliser from the heroic Abdoulaye Faye earned a 2-2 draw, and though a similar result would have to be seen as a good one, it seems possible that we can go one better at the Stadium of Light and claim all three points.
Matchdays at Sunderland grounds past and present, Roker Park and the Stadium of Light
The Black Cats will provide stiff opposition however, and after several years of yo-yoing between the Premier League and Championship they seem to have established themselves as a top-flight side, currently sitting thirteenth in the table. Their form was poor in the early part of the season under Roy ”Mr. Nice Guy” Keane, and a string of bad results, including a 1-0 defeat by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium in August led to his departure from the club and replacement by former assistant Ricky Sbragia. Better form has followed under Sbragia, and the goals of former Stoke loanee Kenwyne Jones have earned the side some good wins, including home successes over Fulham and Bolton in recent weeks.
The links to Sunderland in the Stoke squad are many, with first-team squad members Delap, Danny Higginbotham and Liam Lawrence all having joined Stoke from the club.
While having a look at the Sunderland website I chuckled over the hugely overstated description of the Stadium of Light, so if the game and result are disappointing, at least I’ll be able to watch a game in a ground ”widely renowned as one of the best in Europe.”
Sbragia has made a decent start as Sunderland boss
It seems likely that Stoke’s two transfer deadline loan additions, Henri Camara and Stephen Kelly will come straight into the Stoke side for the fixture, with Kelly replacing the less experienced Andy Wilkinson in the right-back position while is seems possible that Camara will make his debut on the right wing in the absence of the suspended Rory Delap, rather than in his preferred centre forward position. Long-term absentees Mamady Sidibe and Salif Diao will miss the game for the Potters, though Sidibe is approaching fitness and may feature in the next league game at home to struggling Portsmouth in two weeks’ time.
Sunderland also made two late additions to their squad in centre-backs Calum Davenport and Israeli international Tal Ben Haim, and both should feature in Sbragia’s squad. Top scorer Cisselooks set to be fit despite limping off with an injured ankle during the Black Cats’ 1-1 derby draw with Newcastle last Sunday. The game will come too soon though for defensive duo Nyron Nosworthy and Paul McShane, the latter having recently returned from a loan spell at Hull, as both have hamstring problems, while fellow defender Anton Ferdinand is a doubt with a hip injury.
Kenwyne Jones v Ryan Shawcross
The battle between rangy striker Jones and powerful centre-back Shawcrosslooks like being a physical one, particularly as both players are used to being dominant aerially. Jones is Sunderland’s main goal threat and if Shawcross can keep him quiet it will greatly increase Stoke’s chances of keeping a clean sheet.
Tal Ben Haim v James Beattie
Ben Haim, who joined Sunderland on loan from Manchester City earlier this week will be trying to impress on his Sunderland debut, but Beattie will be looking to continue his good goalscoring run against the Israeli, who I must say has never impressed me at all.
Dean Whitehead v Glenn Whelan
Whitehead, who Stoke reportedly tried to sign in the summer, is one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers in the centre of the field and will come up against creative (as creative as it gets for Stoke) midfielder Whelan in the battle for midfield supremacy. Stoke have been somewhat outplayed in the midfield area in recent away games so big performances from Whelan and centre-midfield partner Amdy Faye are a must.
Goalkeepers: Marton Fulop (25), Craig Gordon (26), Darren Ward (34), Nick Colgan (35), Trevor Carson (20)
Defenders: Phil Bardsley (23), Nyron Nosworthy (28), Tal Ben Haim (26), Danny Collins (28), Calum Davenport (26), Anton Ferdinand (23), George McCartney (27), Paul McShane (22), Jean-Yves Mvoto (20), Russell Anderson (30), Peter Hartley (20), Michael Kay (19)
Midfielders: Dean Whitehead (27), Teemu Tainio (29), Steed Malbranque (29), Kieran Richardson (24), Andy Reid (26), Carlos Edwards (30), Grant Leadbitter (23), Dwight Yorke (37), Jack Colback (19), Nathan Luscombe (19), Robbie Weir (20), Jamie Chandler (19), David Meyler (19), Conor Hourihane (18)
Forwards: Djibril Cisse (27), Kenwyne Jones (24), Daryl Murphy (25), David Healy (29), Anthony Stokes (20), Rade Prica (28), David Connolly (31), Martyn Waghorn (19), David Dowson (20)
Star Man: Kenywne Jones
The 24 year old Trinidadian, who spent time on loan at Stoke four years ago is the epitome of a handful striker. He is tall, strong, good in the air and has a good goalscoring record, averaging better than one in every two starts this season. He missed the first part of the season through injury but has hit the ground running on his return and has added a great deal to the team as a whole. The former Southampton and Joe Public FC man also has 35 caps for his country, but has a surprisingly poor goalscoring record at international level, with a return of just four goals from those games.
A less hirsute Jones in his Stoke days
Comparative Club Stats: Sunderland Stoke
League Position: 13th 17th
Goals Scored: 32 29
Goals Conceded: 39 45
Home Record: (W,D,L) 6,3,7 7,4,4
Away Record: (W,D,L) 4,4,5 1,3,10
Clean Sheets: 5 6
Failed To Score: 10 10
Top Scorers: Cisse (10), Jones (8) Fuller (6), Sidibe (4)
The Stadium of Light