Sunderland Preview ft The Roker Report

On Saturday, we head north to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland. This week we have also spoken to Rory Fallow from the Roker Report to hear what Black Cat fans think of the match.

Well, it’s been a turbulent few weeks. The festive period is always a tough time for Stoke. We somehow face the several top sides during the fixture heavy two weeks. Along with the loss to Wolves has seen a clear divide between fans. Many will be looking to this game before coming to a decision about the future of the man causing these divisions, Mark Hughes.

The reverse fixture on the 15th October saw Stoke beat Sunderland 2-0, through a Joe Allen double. It was the start of a good period of form for us, with us winning 4 of the following 6 games.

Currently, we are picking up 0.9 points away from home this season. Which all-in-all is not a bad ratio to have however the league average is 1.1. Whereas, Sunderland are averaging 1.1 points per home game. This, in theory, makes up for a great spectacle this weekend. Their last win was against Watford on 17th December, it ended 1-0. However, Sunderland are coming to the game after holding Liverpool to a 2-2 draw, which is a great feat for any team, given Liverpool’s performances this season. But with them in 18th place, they will be battling to grab some points against, and let’s be honest, an out of form Stoke team.

A quick prediction from me, is that Mark will field a side that will try to grind out a result. The whole debate of ‘Flair vs Grinders’ will be seen this weekend. I think Whelan and Afellay deserve a game. And with Walters out for at least another week, Crouch will probably start. But what about Bojan? I think Hughes’ intentions for Bojan will be present on Saturday. If he isn’t played, we’ll see him signing with Middlesbrough before we play Man Utd next week. For me though, it’ll be 2-1 to Sunderland.

Here is Rory Fallow from Roker Report answering a few questions about the game and Sunderland.

Sunderland currently have 1 win in 6 games, do you think Moyes can pull you out of this rut against Stoke?

That stat doesn’t particularly worry me ahead of the game because our home form lately has been rather impressive. In our last five we’ve beaten Leicester, Watford & Hull, earned a draw against Liverpool and our only defeat was a narrow loss to Chelsea. It’s a different story away from the Stadium of Light but our displays on Wearside are where most fans are taking solace.

I think it’s a game we can win if put in the same kind of performance we did against Liverpool and hopefully we’ll have Victor Anichebe back as well, to give us some extra presence up front.

What Stoke player or area would you think Moyes will be looking to exploit on Saturday?

Our main threat obviously comes from Jermain Defoe so he’ll be looking to use his pace to try and get the better of Ryan Shawcross, while Anichebe will hopefully be on hand to cause Glenn Johnson some problems, as the big man tends to start on the left. Adnan Januzaj is looking dangerous at the minute too, so Moyes will be hoping he can cause your defence some problems when running with the ball at his feet.

Look out for Patrick van Aanholt’s runs from deep as well. Whoever starts on the right wing for Stoke will need to work hard to nullify the flying full back.

Which Stoke player worries you the most, if any given our recent form?

At the moment, it’s probably Peter Crouch! Seeing him and Defoe grabbing goals over the festive period made me feel like I was back in 2008. There’s a lot of attacking flair that worries me in your side to be honest though, with the likes of Arnautovic & Shaqiri in your ranks. It would be typical if Bardsley scored with one of his occasional piledrivers from long range too!

Sunderland have averaged 1.1 points a game at home this season, is this worrying at all for Black Cat fans?

I don’t know if people are exactly panicking actually. I don’t mean that most fans particularly confident either, I’d say the majority do think we’ll go down, but most of us just feel pretty apathetic. We’ve been in this situation so often now, we’re kind of used to it. So while we’re well aware of the awfulness of our situation, we’re bizarrely calm about it all.

What are Sunderland fans hoping will happen during this transfer window? Any players you are hoping Moyes will bring in, or and players you hope to offload?

Martin Bain (our Chief Executive) gave an interview about three weeks ago which confirmed we don’t have any money to spend this month. We’re up to our limit on FFP so any purchases will have to be funded by high earners leaving. The likely candidates to leave are Lamine Kone & Wahbi Khazri, who could put themselves in the shop window quite nicely at the African Cup of Nations.

I doubt we’ll sell Kone, as he’s a first team player so even if we replaced him, we won’t have exactly strengthened. Khazri isn’t playing though so I can see him departing, which will allow Moyes can bring in (at least one of) a central midfielder, another target man type striker and a centre half. I’m not expecting us to be that busy though and wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t sign anyone. The most I can see us doing is bringing in a loan player from abroad, as we still have a vacant space on that front.

Is there anyone in your side who is going under the radar and Stoke should be worried about?

Our main threats are the obvious ones, really. Defoe is the top boy and Anichebe has been a surprising revelation in most games, so we really need him to recover from a hamstring strain in time for Saturday. After those, Patrick van Aanholt is our next best attacker but there has been some solidity emerging at the back from his defensive colleagues.

Stoke fans will probably remember how much of a nightmare Papy Djilobodji had at The Bet 365 Stadium, earlier this season and that was indicative of first 10 games. Since the team’s fortunes have changed though, Papy has looked twice the player and is becoming a very reliable defender. The best way to sum up his turn around is that us fans went from praying he’d get picked for Senegal for AFCON to being delighted when he wasn’t called up.

Most importantly, do you think Sunderland will repeat their recurring form this year and save yourselves right at the end or climb the table before it becomes a problem?

Probably not. If we had some money to spend this month and we didn’t have list of injuries as long as Peter Crouch’s legs, then I’d be pretty confident due to our form since November. The lack of options will catch up with us I think though, especially since most teams around us will strengthen this month. If we do turn it around, it will be down to the sheer resilience of the

players we do have at our disposal and if they keep going like they have over the last 10 games or so, there’s always an outside chance. This is certainly the least confident I’ve felt about our chances in recent years but Sunderland never do things easily, so who knows.

Written by Benito Fisher

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