The Black Cats lost 2-1 to Sheffield United on Wednesday night and will now be looking to bounce back as they face the Potters.
Alex Neil may look to make some changes to his team with the aim of returning to winning ways, and one player he must unleash from the start today is centre-back Bailey Wright.
The 30-year-old made five clearances, two blocks and two interceptions in his 36 minutes on the pitch. Meanwhile, Danny Batth and Dennis Cirkin only made seven clearances between them and failed to make a block or interception, playing 86 and 90 minutes each respectively.
These statistics, along with his match rating, suggest that Wright defended to a higher level of quality than the pair, and that is one reason why Neil should start him on Saturday.
Roker Report writer Philip West tweeted earlier this year that the £13k-per-week defender has the “heart of a lion”.
Meanwhile, Black Cats legend Kevin Phillips previously compared him to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, saying: “He’s been a great signing. I don’t know the player, but I just get the feeling that he’s a leader and a voice in the dressing room.
“Sometimes the manager can only say so much and then you want of your senior experience players to pipe up and put a few people in their place and give encouragement and be a leader. He seems like that.
“The stats just show what an important player he is. He’s almost to Sunderland what Van Dijk is to Liverpool at the moment with those incredible stats.”
The Dutch centre-back has won the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool, dominating opposition players in the air. He won 77% of his aerial battles in the top flight last term and 76% in the Reds’ 2019/20 title-winning campaign, winning 63% in the intervening season.
Wright could be Sunderland’s own version of the Dutchman against Stoke as he is also sublime in the air. In the Championship this season, the Australian has won 100% of his aerial battles in two appearances, after winning 67% in both of his League One seasons with the club.
This shows that the 30-year-old has the quality to dominate opposition forwards, in a similar style to Van Dijk, and his ability in the air is another reason why he should start against the Potters today.