Sam Allardyce has warned his struggling Sunderland side to be wary of a wounded Stoke City when they go in search of three points to boost their Premier League survival hopes.
The Black Cats moved out of the relegation zone with a battling goalless draw against Arsenal last weekend, which left them above 18th-placed Norwich City on goal difference.
Sunderland have lost just once in seven matches, including five draws, and Saturday’s trip to the Britannia Stadium presents a good opportunity for three points against an out-of-sorts Stoke side.
The Potters have lost three consecutive league matches and conceded four goals in each of those games as a fine campaign appears to be petering out.
But Sunderland manager Allardyce warned that opposite number Mark Hughes will be hurting from Stoke’s run and is sure the Welshman will have his side motivated to end their rut.
“I’ve known Mark for many years,” he told Sunderland’s official website. “He will not be a happy man believe you me.
“I think everybody can see that from the expression on his face sat on the bench last weekend, but they were three big teams they played against – Liverpool, Chelsea [sic, Tottenham] and Man City – and we don’t have anything like the size of squad and haven’t spent the size of money they have.
“What we are is in good form at the moment and if we play anything like we did at Norwich [a 3-0 win] we will give them one hell of a game, but I would expect Mark will have Stoke really revved up and he will want to stop this very poor run of performances.
“But I do hope they’re as bad as they have been in the last three games!”
Sunderland can also take heart from recent history against Stoke, with the Wearsiders losing just once in the past nine league meetings between the clubs.
Stoke were beaten 2-0 in November’s reverse fixture, but defender Marc Muniesa says the squad are doing all they can to end their poor run.
“Straight after the game the players, myself included, are always down, because it doesn’t feel good when we lose and we know we haven’t done the right things,” he told Stoke’s official website.
“[But] on the training ground this week I have seen a really ambitious and determined group of players.
“We are hungry and want to win the game at the weekend to turn the situation back around.”
Sunderland have no new injury concerns and are set to have a full squad to choose from.
Stoke lost influential midfielder Ibrahim Afellay to a long-term knee injury last week, joining goalkeeper Jack Butland (ankle) on the sidelines.
Butland’s deputy Shay Given (groin) may also miss the rest of the campaign, but Xherdan Shaqiri should recover from a hamstring injury to feature.
Key Opta stats:
– Sunderland have failed to score in four of their last seven away league trips to Stoke City, netting just four goals in total in this period.
– Stoke have lost their last three Premier League matches – they have not lost four in a row since February 2012.
– Stoke’s last three Premier League games have seen them concede 12 goals and score just once.
– Sunderland have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four Premier League games, including in each of their last two. They have not kept three in a row in the top flight since May 2015.
– However, the Black Cats have also failed to score in three of their last four Premier League matches.
– Jermain Defoe is enjoying his best goalscoring season in the Premier League (13 goals) since 2009-10 at Tottenham Hotspur (18). This is his highest tally of away goals in a single Premier League season, however (10).
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