To illustrate just how tight the Premier League bottom-half is: a win for 17th placed Sunderland would move them level on points with 11th placed Stoke and still wouldn’t guarantee top-flight football next season. What Paolo Di Canio needs is a reaction from his players if they’re to kick-off amongst the elite again in August. After a two-game winning streak Di Canio was brought back down to Earth with a thump following the 6-1 mauling suffered at Aston Villa last week. To make matters worse his side dropped back to 17th over the weekend and could be in the bottom three by Wednesday should Wigan win their game in hand.
The Potters, despite their mid-table position, aren’t deluded enough to believe they’re safe just yet. Back-to-back wins lifted Tony Pulis’ men to 40-points but the usual survival threshold doesn’t offer the security as it has done in previous years. That leaves them needing to leave Wearside with maximum points if they’re going to finally confirm their Premier League place for 2013/14 and heap even further pressure on the teams below them.
Sunderland are without Stephane Sessegnon for the remainder of the season after he was sent off against Aston Villa last time out. Connor Wickham (calf) is unlikely to feature meaning Paolo Di Canio isn’t dealing with any fresh injury concerns.
Defenders Marc Wilson (hamstring) and Andy Wilkinson (back), as well as midfielder Glenn Whelan (groin), are all doubts for Stoke. Matthew Etherington could feature from the start after returning from a back complaint last week.
What the managers said…
“When I arrived, in my opinion, Danny wasn’t really fit enough in terms of playing in the Premier League. He had a long face during my first two or three training sessions and I thought ‘can he play football?’ I wondered what was going on so I spoke to him. Now he is confident. He is not down. He feels part of the cause and is always active, encouraging the other players in the training drills. He is intelligent and now he is ready, which is why I feel confident that he can score.” Paolo Di Canio is confident Danny Graham can fire Sunderland to safety (Guardian)
“There has been nothing from the club that suggests anything other than I want to continue and they are happy for me to continue. I still feel there is stuff to be done, certain aspects within the club that can be improved. I would like to be given the opportunity to do that. There are aspects we have learned from this year. There are certain things that you look back on and think you could have dealt with that better. That’s for me to discuss with the powers that be, to learn from one or two mistakes.” Tony Pulis concedes mistakes have been made at Stoke this season (Daily Mail)
Pre-match Statistic: Sunderland have won three and kept four clean sheets in the previous four Premier League meetings with Stoke.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Stoke City