Stoke travel to the Stadium of Light on Sunday hoping to continue their good start to the season. Tony Pulis’ charges have gained eight points from their first four matches, including a creditable 0-0 draw with Chelsea and last week’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool.
Sunderland’s start to the season has been less successful. The Black Cats have only earned two points from the opening four Premier League matches and exited the Carling Cup with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Brighton. To compound matters, Asamoah Gyan, one of their only recognised strikers, manufactured a loan move to UAE club Al-Ain.
Stoke have been gaining momentum since they reached the FA Cup semi final last season. The Potters then bolstered their squad during the summer transfer window.
Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson added experience to a Stoke rearguard that already contained Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth. Stoke then added the transfer deadline day signings of Wilson Palacios, Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch. Peter Crouch could form a formidable forward tandem with Kenwyne Jones, while Wilson Palacios adds steal to the Stoke midfield.
On form, Stoke are the favourites for Sunday’s encounter. The Potters are experiencing the Europa League for the first time, however, and could experience a European hangover after their 1-1 draw with Dynamo Kiev on Thursday.
Sunderland spent a total of €26.5m on a host of signings during the summer, but have struggled for form so far. An opening day 1-1 away draw with Liverpool was a good result, but Steve Bruce will be disappointed with a home loss to rivals Newcastle, a scoreless draw with Swansea and last week’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Sunderland have struggled since the sudden departure of Darren Bent last January and Steve Bruce’s tenure could come under pressure if there isn’t an upturn of fortunes.
Matthew Etherington is a doubt for Stoke after the winger missed the midweek encounter with Dynamo Kiev with a back injury. John O’Shea could return for Sunderland and could replace Phil Bardsley, who is suspended for four games. Dong-Won Ji, who scored against Chelsea, and Connor Wickham could be in line for starts alongside Nicklas Bendtner .