PHIL BARDSLEY insists Sunderland can overcome their height disadvantage at Stoke City tomorrow.
Six of Stoke’s starting line-up at Liverpool on Wednesday night were above the 6ft mark with Sunderland January target John Carew the latest imposing specimen to join Tony Pulis’ men.
That was without the services of unused substitute Kenwyne Jones, one of six former Black Cats at the Britannia Stadium.
The players at Steve Bruce’s disposal are a much slighter bunch with only Nedum Onuoha, Anton Ferdinand and Titus Bramble of the expected starting 11 who are over 6ft.
But left-back Bardsley believes that Sunderland have the courage in their ranks to harness Stoke’s size and combat their route one approach.
Bardsley told the Echo: “If we compete right, then their height doesn’t bother us.
“There’s enough brave lads there who’ll put their head in where it hurts. If you do that, you fend off the aerial battle.
“It’s tough going there but you’ve got to dig in and grind a result out.
“If we can do that and defend properly, I’m sure we can go there and cause them problems.
“There’s a few ex-Sunderland players there and they’ll probably want to do well against their former side. But we’ve got a group of players now who feel like they can go there and get a result.”
Stoke’s style of play should provide a fresh experience for new signing Stephane Sessegnon, who made his debut in Tuesday’s Stadium of Light defeat to Chelsea.
Bardsley was impressed by Sessegnon’s display against the reigning Premier League champions and has been pleased with the double capture of the Benin international and Sulley Muntari, who should make his Black Cats bow at the Britannia Stadium.
Scotland international Bardsley believes the pair have softened the loss of Darren Bent and shows the kind of players Sunderland are now able to attract to keep their European bid on course.
The 25-year-old said: “I thought Stephane was fantastic on Tuesday night. He’s got a low centre of gravity and he’s quick with great feet.
“I thought it was a great debut from him and hopefully there’s more to come. Darren Bent has gone now and he’s done his own thing. Life goes on.
“The manager and the staff at the club have brought a couple of top class players in who hopefully can do their bit. It’s great to see us signing players like that.
“It just shows what direction we’re going in and if we carry on like we have been doing, they can come to the party and join in and hopefully we can pop a bottle of champagne at the end of the year.”