The two teams with the longest winless runs this season face each other on Saturday as an invigorated Sunderland visit a Stoke side who are currently similar to a stone dropping into deep pond.
Stoke travelled to Swansea before the international break and a controversial penalty in the 94th minute saw the Potters leave Wales with a point despite leading 2-0 and looking in control of half time. Now 8 games without a win, Mark Hughes will be hoping Stoke can turn good performances into results.
Sunderland were tipped by nearly everyone, including their own fans, to struggle with Di Canio at the helm and they did. The flamboyant manager was sacked and his successor was Gus Poyet. Since then, things look rosier for the Black Cats with 3 wins in 5 matches despite a 4-0 loss to Swansea in Poyet’s first match.
The former Blackburn midfielder wasn’t at his best for Stoke in their previous match, but N’Zonzi is an important player in the middle of the park. With the large number of players still remaining at the club from the Tony Pulis era, the treatment of the ball is still reminiscent of a tennis player rather than a footballer – N’Zonzi is the exception in midfield though.
Keeping possession in crunch matches is incredibly important if you are to secure the victory and the Stoke defence’s average passing accuracy 60% alongside a combined 12 long balls against Swansea made it difficult.In the list of top 10 Premier League players who have made the most passes (669) and highest passing accuracy (88% (out of players with more than 900 minutes to their name this season)), N’Zonzi is listed 7th and 6th respectively.
For Mark Hughes to change the philosophy at Stoke successfully, last year’s Players’ Player of the year will see his importance grow in the short and long term.
When the signing of the Italian midfielder was announced in the summer, neutral fans admired the major coup of a signing. Giaccherini is yet to have the explosive performances that were expected when he arrived in the North East as settles to the Premier League, but under Poyet the former Juventus midfielder could flourish.
Giaccherini has shown he can supply goals from midfield, something that wasn’t always present at Juventus, with 2 goals for Sunderland thus far and 3 for Italy in the second half of 2013. With the second most shots (17) and joint most on target (4) for Sunderland it isn’t a surprise he is the club’s top goal scorer. With 8 shots on his left foot and 7 shots on his right foot, it shows Giaccherini has the ability to fool his marker and not be predictable like his teammate Adam Johnson. The signs are there that Giaccherini will add to his goal tally on more than one occasion this season and it will be important with Sunderland’s strikers struggling.
No international players have returned with injuries for Stoke, although Andy Wilkinson and Stephen Ireland will be missing for The Potters.
Sunderland do not have any fresh injury concerns, but Andrea Dossena and Lee Cattermole will be unavailable as they search out the final game of their 3 match suspensions.
- Since 2008, Sunderland have taken 15 points from Stoke – that total is only bested by Bolton, whom Sunderland have taken 17 points.
- In the last 22 matches between Stoke and Sunderland, only a combined 11 goals have come from open play.
- The 12 previous games between the two at the Britannia Stadium has seen Stoke win 7 times, although Sunderland are unbeaten in their last 2 visits.
- Sunderland have the worst defence in the league (22 goals) and have scored the second least goals (8) this season.
- Stoke’s run of 8 Premier League games without a win is only rivalled by Crystal Palace and Saturday’s opponents Sunderland who have both endured 8-match winless runs too.
The confidence boost of beating Manchester City before the international break will see Sunderland as favourites, but a reality check could be round the corner for Poyet’s men. Stoke haven’t played poorly in the last few games despite not getting a victory and will match Sunderland toe for toe. A draw is on the cards and expect some goals with neither defences being at their best for periods of this season. Stoke 2-2 Sunderland