Free-falling Stoke are looking to halt their recent slide against a Sunderland side who again seem to be timing their escape from relegation very well indeed.
Mark Hughes’ side have taken their foot off the gas in recent weeks, conceding four goals in each of their past three matches to slip from European contention to mid-table mediocrity.
In all, the Potters have won just one of their last seven matches – even their traditionally strong home form has been absent this season, as seven teams have left the Britannia Stadium with all three points.
Speculation this week saw Hughes linked with the Everton job, but for now the Welshman will be desperate to improve the situation at Stoke and give their fans something to smile about in the closing weeks of the season, starting on Saturday.
Sunderland’s battling goalless draw with Arsenal at the Stadium of Light last weekend took them out the relegation zone with four games left to play, and a favourable run-in makes them favourites to beat the drop.
The Black Cats have won just three times on the road this season, but a repeat of their last away match – the 3-0 win at Norwich – would be ideal, and at this moment in time there are few better teams to face than Stoke in their current form.
However, the Britannia Stadium has not been a particularly productive venue for Sunderland in recent years; they have won just once there in the Premier League. However, they did claim an important point there in April last year to aid their relegation fight on that occasion – the same again this weekend would be very useful for Sam Allardyce’s side.
Stoke are without Ibrahim Affelay and Jack Butland, whilst Shay Given is also doubtful. Xherdan Shaqiri and Jon Walters are back in contention for the hosts, but Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson will both miss out.
Sunderland’s Allardyce has no injury concerns at all to speak of, and takes a fully fit squad to the Potters. Jermain Defoe is looking to add to the 10 goals he has scored away from home this season, a Premier League best for the striker.
League Positions: Stoke – 10th (47 pts); Sunderland – 17th (31 pts)
Previous Meeting: Sunderland 2-0 Stoke – November 28, 2015
Form: Stoke – LWDLLL; Sunderland – DDDLWD
Key Players: Stoke – Bojan; Sunderland – Jermain Defoe
Shoot Says: Stoke 1-1 Sunderland