Speaking in his recent press conference ahead of today’s match, Black Cats manager Alex Neil revealed that Danny Batth “should be OK” to feature after the defender was taken off in the latter stages of the midweek 2-1 defeat against Sheffield United with a suspected groin issue.
The Englishman then helped Neil’s side to make their way back to the Championship as he played in nine league games before completing the full 90 minutes in all three of their play-off matches.
Prior to his late enforced exit against the Blades, the 31-year-old had played every minute of league action for Sunderland in the opening weeks of the campaign.
This highlights just how important he is to the team, and Neil will likely be thrilled that Batth’s suspected injury issue from midweek is not a serious one and that he should be fit to play this afternoon.
In those early-season appearances, the centre-back has racked up the joint-highest average for clearances per game (2.5) in Neil’s squad alongside Bailey Wright and Dennis Cirkin.
Bearing in mind how Stoke (51) are one of the teams to have taken more shots at goal than Sunderland (46) so far this term, having a capable defensive figure such as Batth in the team will surely give the visitors a better chance of securing a positive result after Wednesday’s defeat at Bramall Lane.
Before he was taken off in midweek, the centre-back showed how imperious he can be as he made five clearances in total against the Blades and won all four of his aerial duels. Fellow centre-backs Cirkin and Luke O’Nien managed won just one header and made two clearances between them, so Batth’s influence at the back is evident.
If the defender is fit enough to play against Stoke this afternoon, Neil should have no doubts over keeping him in the starting XI, as his presence at the back could end up being the difference between the Black Cats heading back to Wearside with a positive result or enduring another away-day disappointment.