Sam Allardyce must ponder whether 3-5-2 can break down resilient Stoke

Xherdan Shaqiri

Xherdan Shaqiri

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Sunderland will hope to continue the good work they showed at Crystal Palace and get a similar result when they entertain in-form Stoke City on Saturday.

Stoke followed up a great win over Chelsea just before the international break, with an away win at Southampton last weekend and after that success at St Mary’s, they certainly won’t travel to Wearside with any fear.

After a slow start to the season, Mark Hughes’ team have hit their stride and their organisation and defensive discipline, in front of an excellent keeper in Jack Butland, makes them a very difficult team to break down.

There was a time whenever Sunderland played Stoke that it seemed half their team were ex-Black Cats players.

But they have cast their net a bit further than Wearside now and it shows just how far they have come that they can attract signings of the calibre of Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic - all players capable of causing problems on Saturday.

Stoke have always been a tough team to play against, going back to the Tony Pulis years where they were very direct and functional, and it’s a measure of the job Hughes has done that he’s kept that resilience while also adding more flair and making them easier on the eye.

For Sam Allardyce, the big question will be whether he sticks with the three centre-back system that worked so well at Selhurst Park, for a home fixture with Stoke.

He must be tempted, as he’ll want to bring some continuity and stability to a team that has had precious little of it so far.

Whatever the line-up though, Sunderland are in a far better place now after the Palace win, and with confidence and self-belief restored, they should fancy themselves to get back-to-back victories for the first time this campaign.